The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has released preliminary figures for international visitor arrivals into Asia and the Pacific for the first quarter of 2011 showing a year-on-year increase of 5%. According to officials, the sharp fall in arrivals to Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, coupled with the decline in arrivals from the Middle East and North Africa, contributed to the subdued 3% growth seen for the whole region in March. International visitor arrivals to South Asia grew by 10% in March and 13% in the first quarter.
All the leading destinations in the Indian-subcontinent – India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – reported double-digit growth for the quarter. Southeast Asia (+10%) also had a strong quarter after recording growth of 10% in arrivals for the month of March. The majority of the destinations in the sub-region reported strong positive results, particularly Myanmar (+30%), Cambodia (+18%) and Thailand (+14%). Northeast Asia on the other hand registered a sharply slower growth of 3% for the quarter, depressed by the subdued 1% growth in arrivals for the month of March.
International arrivals to the Pacific, hurt by a weak result in March (-3%), still managed to record growth of 3% in the first quarter 2011. Increases in arrivals to the leading Pacific destinations of Australia and New Zealand, were flat and negative respectively. However, this was somewhat offset by positive growth recorded by each of Kiribati, Palau, Hawaii and New Caledonia.
Bill Calderwood, interim CEO of PATA, commented, “After recovering strongly from recession-hit 2008-09, the travel and tourism industry in Asia Pacific has once again been confronted with many challenges in the first quarter of the year. These challenges included rising oil prices, political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and natural disasters in Japan, Australia and New Zealand.” PATA believes that, at 5%, Asia Pacific’s inbound growth for the first quarter of the year was a good result given the circumstances.
Calderwood added, “It is now over two months since the earthquake and tsunami hit the coast of Tohoku region in Japan and the situation appears to be slowly returning to normal. Thankfully, many countries have eased travel restrictions. The larger part of Japan remains physically unaffected by the disaster.”