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Asia Tourism Recovers

PATA confirms sharp decline in arrivals to Asia-Pacific with mild recovery expected

Luc Citrinot, eTN Staff Writer  Sep 11, 2009

BANGKOK (eTN) - The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) released data on arrivals to Asia Pacific confirming that the region has been particularly affected.

For the first half of 2009, PATA indicates that international visitor arrivals to Asia Pacific* fell by an estimated 6 percent compared to the same period of 2008. In parallel, the AAPA (Association of Asia Pacific Airlines) reported a drop of 11.5 percent of total passengers for its members.

However, in contrary to other regions, factors influencing negatively the Asia Pacific area are multiple. It does not only come from the economic downturn but also from political turmoil in Thailand – one of the most popular destinations in the region-, the weakening of currencies such as the Korean Won and most worrying from H1N1 fears –especially for Japan and China-.

PATA said it observed, for example, that tourism dropped immediately by 10 percent in May, as soon as the second major flu outbreak of the decade was confirmed. Figures improved slightly in June.

All five sub-regions of Asia Pacific posted declines in visitor numbers for the first half year of 2009, with South Asia recording the largest fall at 8.1 percent, followed by the Americas (-7.7 percent) and the Pacific (66.6 percent due to double-digit contractions in Hawaii and Guam).

Southeast Asia was down by 5.7 percent under the influence of strong decline in double-digit figures to Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Arrivals to Northeast Asia managed slightly better at -5.2 percent.

However, in absolute numbers, it means a loss of over five million international travellers. Countries bucking the trend are Indonesia and Malaysia with a respective growth of 1.69 percent (with Bali up by 4.7 percent) and by 3.5 percent (due to buoyant figures from Iran, Australia and Singapore) as well as Taiwan and Korea, up respectively by 10 percent and 15 percent. Taiwan benefits from easier travel conditions from China and Korea is gaining market shares thanks to its weak currency.

According to an official from CEO, the travel industry talks increasingly of “green shoots” in the economy and tourism. “Recovery in 2010 might be a stronger term for next year. But improvement is certainly on the way. Finally, we could expect that total arrivals this year would be at the level of 2005 or 2006. This is not such a bad performance as some predicted even worse results.”

(* 41 destinations as measured and reported in the PATA Annual Tourism Monitor)

PATA confirms sharp decline in arrivals to Asia-Pacific with mild recovery expected
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