Bosses at Wendy Wu Tours are working closely with government authorities in Japan and China with the aim of restarting escorted tours this year.
Glen Mintrim, chief executive at the Asia specialist, told a Travel Weekly webcast that some of the operator’s Australian staff visited Japan on a fam trip as part of plans to resume operations in the country.
A fam trip by a UK team has been delayed but is expected to go ahead soon, he added, which should pave the way for holidaymakers to return in the spring.
“We’ve got over 1,500 customers booked for the cherry blossom [season] over three weeks,” he said.
“It’s the most phenomenal tour that we’ve got and it’s one of the top-selling tours.”
The tours are scheduled to run from March 25 to April 12 but Mintrim is not sure that the company will manage to operate the departures that are set to leave in March.
“I think we will get the first 12 days of April…that’s what we’re hoping for,” he said.
“But to put it into perspective, we’ve not included any departures until September in our budgets.”
We hope to be the first people to take customers back to Japan
He said the test trips will reassure the Japanese about Covid safety on escorted group tours and pave the way for others in the industry.
“We hope to be the first people to take customers back to Japan,” he said.
The operator also has close links with authorities in China but Mintrim does not expect that destination to open up to UK holidaymakers until October.
However, in case there is a sudden change in policy, the company’s team in China is ready to operate tours at a moment’s notice.
“All of our reps are really highly-trained in China; they’re obviously doing other jobs, but we’re in contact with them and doing constant training online with them – they’re all ready to go,” he said.
“At any point, we could operate a tour to China tomorrow, if we had to.
“It will definitely come back next year.”
He said four Sri Lanka tours have sold out for February and March and are set to go ahead, while holidays featuring Vietnam may be able to depart as soon as April or May.
Wendy Wu Tours has a new river cruise ship, Victoria Mekong, which operates three- and four-night itineraries in Vietnam and Cambodia.
“We’ve got on our books, right now, more business than we had in 2019. Overall, for 2022, we’re probably about 2% or 3% up,” Mintrim added.
Picture of Japanese cherry blossom by GrooveZ/Shutterstock