Asia Continues to Power World Tourism Growth

Luang Namtha local boys. Photo from Anthon Jackson

Tourism in the east continues to prosper – stimulated by Chinese outbound but also new emerging outbound markets such as India & Indonesia.

All international organisations dealing with tourism – UNWTO, WTTC or PATA just to name a few – agree on one fact when looking at Asia. The continent definitely drove international tourism growth across the globe in 2016 and it should still be the driving force for the tourism industry in 2017. According to PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) forecasts released in early March, Asia recorded 433.3 million international arrivals last year, a growth of 3.2%.

Countries in the Pacific added another 24.2 million international arrivals, up by 6.8% compared to 2015. First estimates from the UNWTO put the increase in tourist arrivals for Asia-Pacific at 8% last year with an estimated total of 303 million. However, UNWTO figures count separately arrivals to the Middle East – which are geographically part of the Asian continent.

PATA indicates that 82.6% of all travellers in Asia came from within the continent, the equivalent of 357.7 million arrivals. Europe continues to be the second largest source market towards Asia, which PATA estimates at 9.8% of all arrivals, or 42.3 million travellers. The Americas arrived in third position, with a volume of 16.4 million travellers, or a market share of 3.8%.

Chinese Dominance

Asia’s tourism “leap” is due above all to the extraordinary push of Chinese tourism. Between 2010 and 2016, Chinese outbound trips almost doubled from 70 million six years ago to an estimated 130 million travellers last year. Asia has naturally been the first to benefit from China’s travel fever. In many Asian countries, Chinese tourists are number 1 – or at least in the top three. By example, last year saw 8.5 million Chinese travellers visiting Thailand, representing a total market share of 25%. Chinese were also number one in South Korea (8.06 million tourists or a market share of 55%), in the Maldives (0.32 million or a share of 25.2%).

Chinese are number two in Singapore with 2.86 million arrivals in 2016, up by 36%. The Chinese figure was only 30,000 visitors short of Indonesia, still Singapore’s number one market with 2.89 million arrivals. Expect however that China could become Singapore’s largest source of visitors in 2017. Asia’s tourism boom is unlikely to stop anytime soon. Not only China is a driving engine to growth on the continent. India but also Indonesia and now Vietnam are perceived as strong emerging outbound markets with a ripple effect on their neighbours. PATA forecasts until 2021 an average annual growth rate of 5.8%. It will then bring total foreign arrivals in Asia to 573.4 million by 2021.

(Source: ITB Berlin News)