PATA survey reveals attitudes to Asia

25th Apr 2006

Visa International Asia Pacific and the Pacific Asia Travel Association have released
the Asia Travel Intentions Survey 2006 report, which investigated the
attitudes of potential travelers to Asia from ten key markets.The
report reveals increasing willingness to visit Asia compared with a
similar survey a year ago. Of individuals intending to travel
internationally in 2006, 43 percent are considering Asia as a holiday
destination. Of those travelers considering Asia, about 80 percent
rate their likelihood of visiting the region at more than 50 percent.

However, the study, which was conducted by AC Nielsen for Visa and
PATA, highlights a number of concerns that are holding back the growth
in the Asian tourism market. While unease about the aftermath of the
2004 tsunami and fears of a repetition are not the greatest concern,
they nevertheless cast a significant shadow.

Travelers are concerned about their safety in Asia and one in five is
misinformed as to the locations where terrorism has occurred.
Fifty-eight percent say that the potential for terrorism makes them
less likely to visit Asia and the same percentage also say that
negative media reports would make them less likely to travel to Asia.
More than two thirds of respondents (69 percent) say they would be
less likely to visit Asia if their governments issued travel warnings.

The study also uncovered that potential travelers need urgent access
to accurate information. While tsunamis were not seen as a
considerable barrier to travel (35 percent say they were less likely
to visit Asia because of the tsunami), those who did cite it as a
concern were frequently misinformed. Nearly 16 months after the
December 2004 tsunami, a significant number of potential Asian
travelers say that several destinations (including China, Hong Kong,
Korea, Japan, Philippines and Singapore - markets unaffected by the
December 2004 tsunami) were “still severely or somewhat affected” by
the tsunami.

Bird flu has also now emerged as a hurdle to travel in Asia.
Approximately one third of respondents do not know which areas have
been affected, and more than one in five believe that areas with no
reported cases have been affected. Without belittling the potential
threat of bird flu, clearly ignorance is proving to be an unnecessary
inhibitor to travel.


“Travelers’ perceptions do not always reflect the reality of a
situation, and ignorance is costing the industry billions,” said Paul
Dowling, Visa Asia Pacific’s Executive Vice President for Corporate
Relations. “In 2005, international Visa cardholders traveling in Asia
spent nearly US$24 billion. This study shows that while Asia continues
to show its resilience as a tourism market, money is being left on the
table. Better consumer education would make a big difference, bringing
billions of extra tourism dollars, particularly by the high spending
travelers, into Asia.”

Dowling added, “For our part, we in the travel industry need to be
more proactive in getting the facts in front of consumers. We believe
this study goes a long way to identifying consumers’ concerns that
need to be addressed by the travel industry.”

PATA President and CEO Peter de Jong said, “The overall numbers of the
survey are encouraging; more travelers are considering returning to
Asia Pacific.  However, we feel that closer collaboration is required
among the travel industry and the media to ensure travelers have a
clear understanding of the Asia Pacific region. When our survey tells
us that an average of 18 percent of respondents identified unaffected
areas of the 2004 tsunami as ‘severely affected’ or ‘somewhat
affected,’ we know there is work to do.”

When asked where they obtain information about their upcoming holiday
destinations, 82 percent of the respondents report that they search
the internet.  “Travel marketers and tourism organizations would do
well to maximize the reach of the internet,” said Dowling.  “The
survey showed that potential travelers use multiple sources for
information to make travel decisions and the internet is top of the
list. Providing up-to-date information on websites and monitoring the
internet to ensure erroneous data is corrected swiftly and forcibly
would greatly assist travelers in making more informed travel

Individual Country Findings
The study shows that travelers from Asia are most likely to travel to
within Asia.  However, outside of the region, travelers from Sweden,
Germany and Austria are most likely to consider Asia in 2006. Aside
from actual volume, the US showed the greatest increase in the
proportion considering Asia compared with 2005. The only country to
show a decline was China, which went from 62 percent to 42 percent.
Fears over potential terrorist attacks were cited as the main reasons
for this decline.

Fears over Safety and Security
Fears over safety and security in Asia resulted in contrasting
responses from those surveyed.  Results show the Chinese market is the
most concerned about traveling to other Asian
countries because of safety and security concerns (82 percent), while
countries with the least concern were France (57 percent) and Germany
(50 percent).

Threat of Bird Flu
Bird flu is also proving a barrier to travel in Asia in many markets.
In Japan, 79 percent believe bird flu to be “a significant problem in
some parts of Asia.”  Travelers from Germany also agreed with this
statement (72 percent), while Korea represented the market least
concerned, at 52 percent.

Long lasting Impact of the Tsunami
Lingering concerns over the December 2004 tsunami remain a factor in
most markets. Agreeing with the statement, “Facilities and amenities
in areas affected by the tsunami are still badly damaged,” were
respondents from Japan and Canada (both 58 percent), the US (57
percent) and France and China (both at 56 percent).  Sweden at 40
percent and Australia at 42 percent were the least concerned.

Cost of Airfares
On airfare taxes making the cost of travel too expensive, about 58
percent of French, 55 percent of Japanese and 53 percent of Chinese
respondents agreed with this notion. Sweden (34 percent) and Australia
(37 percent) were the least likely to agree. 

“Overall, we see the year ahead as one with great potential,” said
Dowling. “The tourism infrastructure is growing, and the region is
gearing up for events such as the Beijing 2008 Olympics. We hope that
national tourism organizations, policy makers, tourism operators and
regional merchants will find this information useful in better
understanding travelers’ concerns and thereby stimulate even more
business for this most exciting part of the world.”


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