Asia and the Pacific visitors rise

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) have released preliminary figures for international visitor arrivals into Asia and the Pacific[1] for January 2011, showing a seven per cent year-on-year expansion.

South Asia set the pace with the strongest arrivals growth from amongst the four sub-regions covered for January 2011, with a gain of 14%. Sri Lanka (+46%), Nepal (+26%), the Maldives (+18%) and India (+10%) each set new records for the month (year-on-year). The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, which started in mid-February in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, helped maintain the current growth momentum for this sub-region up to and including the final on April 02, 2011.

The destinations of Southeast Asia also reported a strong gain of ten per cent for the month, boosted by double-digit growth in international arrivals to Cambodia (+18%), Indonesia (+11%), Myanmar (+27%), the Philippines (+17%), Singapore (+16%), Thailand (+12%) and Vietnam (+22%). Growth in visitor arrivals to Malaysia remained sluggish with only a one per cent increase due largely to a small decline in arrivals from Southeast Asia, a sub-region that contributes more than 70% of total visitor arrivals to Malaysia.

Northeast Asia registered a comparatively slower growth of five and a half per cent, although it must be remembered that, because of the enormous volume base, this still equated to more than 940,000 additional arrivals for the month. Stronger arrivals growth was reported by Hong Kong SAR (+22%), Chinese Taipei (+16%) and Japan (+12%) and this offset subdued growth to China (plus one per cent), Macau SAR (plus one per cent) and Korea (ROK) (plus three per cent). No data is available as yet for Mongolia.

International arrivals to the Pacific recorded a steady growth of four per cent for January 2011, but this remained uneven across the destinations. Australia and New Zealand reported foreign inbound growth of five per cent and four per cent respectively, while the Marshall Islands (+12%), New Caledonia (+16%) and Palau (+35%) each saw relatively robust results. Samoa (minus two per cent) and Vanuatu   (-24%) on the other hand recorded contractions in arrivals for the month.

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Said Kris Lim, director, Strategic Intelligence Centre, PATA: “The year 2011 started strongly for the travel and tourism industry in Asia and the Pacific, maintaining the arrivals growth momentum seen throughout 2010. South Asia and Southeast Asia continued to deliver the stronger results while Northeast Asia and the Pacific posted comparatively slower growth. This early positive momentum however, is obviously expected to be negatively affected by the devastating earthquake and resultant tsunami that struck Japan on March 11.

Japan is the second largest source market for Asia Pacific, behind China, and generated some 17.5 million arrivals to the region’s destinations (including Canada, Mexico, and the USA) last year, a year of growth after declines in both 2008 and 2009. Achieving a similar level of growth now of course looks unlikely.

“Japan’s inbound tourism remained robust in January 2011 when international visitor arrivals grew by 12% year-on-year, however foreign arrivals to the destination for the immediate months ahead – from March to May or/and possibly June – are expected to be depressed. Given the fact that airports in Japan, with the exception of Sendai airport, are now operating normally (albeit with some cancelled flights) and other gateway cities such as Osaka and Fukuoka where transportation is functioning normally and businesses are operating as usual, we are hopeful for some signs of a rebound or a return to some form of normalcy in the second half of the year,” added Lim.