New figures from the Pacific Asia Travel Association suggest international visitor numbers to the region are likely to fall by 32 per cent year-on-year during to the coronavirus pandemic.
Considering the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, the volume of arrivals is now expected to reduce to fewer than 500 million this year.
That effectively takes visitor volume back to levels last seen in 2012.
At this stage, growth is expected to resume in 2021, returning to forecast levels by 2023.
Much of course, depends on how quickly and completely the Covid-19 pandemic is contained and controlled, PATA said in a statement.
A more optimistic scenario suggests arrivals still falling in 2020 but by 16 per cent year-on-year while a pessimistic narrative predicts a reduction of approximately 44 per cent.
PATA chief executive, Mario Hardy, noted that: “This is first and foremost an unfolding human tragedy, with a dire loss of life and for millions more, a loss of income while businesses are closed, and many remain in self-quarantine or follow social distancing guidelines.
“We can only hope that this pandemic is brought under absolute control quickly and effectively, enabling the global travel and tourism industry to get back on its feet, re-employ the millions of people who lost their positions and create even more employment opportunities both directly and for the upstream and downstream sectors that rely on it.”
The impacts are expected to be most severe in Asia, especially north-east Asia, which is now predicted to lose almost 51 per cent of its visitor volume between 2019 and 2020 (most likely scenario), followed by south Asia with a reduction of 31 per cent, and then south-east Asia with a 22 per cent drop in visitor arrivals.
West Asia is projected to lose almost six percent in visitor arrivals, followed by the Pacific with a projected contraction of 18 per cent, and the Americas with a loss of a little under 12 per cent.
Recovery rates relative to 2019 are expected to occur in most destination regions/sub-regions in 2020, however, north-east Asia is likely to take a little longer and exceed the 2019 volume of arrivals in 2022.
The same is essentially true for visitor receipts as well as they are expected to drop by 27 per cent between 2019 and 2020 under the most likely scenario, reducing to US$594 billion, significantly below the original 2020 forecast of US$811 billion.
Hardy added: “While there are obvious reductions in arrivals, there still remains a significant volume of visitors expected into Asia Pacific through 2020, with just under half-a-billion such travellers still generating almost US$600 billion, with each visitor still requiring and expecting the attention and service that this region has become famous for delivering.
“Nevertheless, perceptions are difficult to change so recovery might take longer in the minds of many potential travellers.
“This, however, gives us time to reconsider the position we had created up to 2019; if numbers return only slowly, the obvious imperative will be to offer travellers such incentives that they remain in the destination longer and see more of what it has to offer.
“The metric should therefore shift from the numbers of arrivals, to time spent in any one destination and the dispersion across it.
“Receipts will then follow.”