Preliminary data for 36 Asia Pacific destinations indicate a strong performance in 2015 with foreign arrivals growing by around 5.2 percent to reach a combined inbound total of more than 455 million. The Pacific led the way with annual growth of over seven percent to reach almost 27 million foreign arrivals. This was followed by the Americas – excluding the USA – with growth of nine percent to reach almost more than 54 million arrivals.
Asia in total grew by 4.5 percent year-on-year but there were large variations within the region. Northeast Asia reported 3.5 percent growth; there was 6.7 percent growth in arrivals for Southeast Asia, and a high of 8.2 percent for South Asia.
Within this range of growth results, Asia captured more than 80 percent of all foreign arrivals for this group of destinations in 2015 and over 70 percent of the incremental increase in absolute numbers between 2014 and 2015.
At the individual destination level Japan had an especially strong year, growing by just over 47 percent year-on-year and setting a new record for foreign arrivals of more than 19.7 million. It appears that the easing of visa requirements had a very positive impact on foreign inbound tourism for Japan. All told, the majority of source markets into Japan grew at double-digit rates in 2015 with only a few, such as Russia (-15%) actually declining.
In similar fashion, Chile and Thailand both reported strong annual gains – achieving growth of 23 percent and 21 percent respectively. Thailand was close to receiving 30 million foreign visitors in 2015, falling short of that milestone by less than 100,000 arrivals.
Sri Lanka also performed strongly in 2015, growing by almost 18 percent between 2014 and 2015 and coming close to passing the two million milestone for the very first time (1.798 million).
Overall, 29 of the 36 destinations for which preliminary 2015 data are available reported positive growth with ten of those destinations falling within the double-digit range.
Supporting these gains across the wider Asia Pacific region was the continued expansion of scheduled air seat capacity – 8.7 percent annual growth in 2015 for Asia Pacific as compared to a global average of 6.7 percent.
The 38 Asia Pacific destinations for which PATA produces five-year annual forecasts are expected to collectively continue with the overall growth momentum of the last few years and pass 550 million foreign arrivals in 2016 before progressing towards, and then exceeding, 600 million foreign arrivals in 2018. Each year between 2016 and 2020 is predicted to set new records for foreign arrivals which will reach a near-term collective record high of close to 650 million by 2020.
This is one of the key findings in PATA’s ‘Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2016-2020’ due for release in the first half of 2016.
At the sub-regional level, average growth rates between 2015 and 2020 are expected to range from around three percent per annum for the Americas and the Pacific to 3.4 percent per annum for Northeast Asia. Southeast Asia is forecast to show an average annual growth rate of 6.8 percent to 2020 while South Asia will set the pace with average annual growth of 7.6 percent.
Overall, Asia is predicted to see its foreign arrivals count increase by an average of 4.5 percent per annum between 2015 and 2020.
Origin markets within Asia will generate the largest volume of arrivals into Asia Pacific to 2020. From a proportionate volume of just over 64 percent in 2010 Asia will increase its influence on the international tourism industry into Asia Pacific, increasing its relative share of generated arrivals from 66 percent in 2015 to more than 68 percent by 2020. At that time, Asian source markets will generate close to 400 million arrivals annually into the Asia Pacific region.
The four destinations that constitute the Americas in this report also form a strong source region and by 2020 will account for close to 120 million foreign arrivals into Asia Pacific annually.
For each of the destination regions of the Americas and Asia, strong intra-regional flows make up the bulk of their collective arrivals and this will remain the case to 2020. For the Americas, these intra-regional flows will remain at around 83 percent while for Asia that proportion will hold steady at more than 94 percent.
The Pacific sub-region is gradually seeing its Pacific-to-Pacific flows give way to arrivals from Asia which, by 2020, will account for close to 60 percent of all foreign arrivals into this sub-region.
At the individual origin market level, the key generating markets in 2020 will be led by China, not just because of its massive flows to destinations in Greater China but also in its own right outside of those Greater China movements. Independent of these flows, China is still expected to generate well over 60 million arrivals to non-Greater China destinations in Asia Pacific in 2020.
The USA and Canada rate second and third by volume as generators of foreign arrivals but this is largely due to the cross-border movements between each of the markets.
Just over 80 percent of the foreign arrivals into Asia Pacific in 2020 – adjusted for the Greater China influence – will come from just 20 source markets and two-thirds of that volume will come from Asia.
Mario Hardy, CEO of PATA, said, “It is heartening to see that the momentum of the Asia Pacific tourism sector will continue until at least the end of this decade and that it continues to play a significant role as both a receiver and generator of international visitors. The region’s identity as the engine of growth in international tourism is well justified.”
“While this strong and sustained growth is a positive sign, it brings with it a number of responsibilities that require changes in mindset and measurement. We must ask ourselves if we are able to maintain high service delivery in the face of such continued growth and whether or not we have the correct software in place. The protocols and policies to manage effectively this growth are vitally important and we must also question how such increases in visitor arrivals may be managed to remain both rewarding to the destination citizens and sustainable in the longer-term. Growth brings with it rewards, but also responsibilities,” he concluded.