There are some small crumbs of comfort for the travel industry in the latest PATA Quarterly Tourism Monitor. Although figures just released for Q4 2008 covering 37 destinations show a year-on-year drop of 2.8 percent in international arrivals, the dip was not sufficient to drag the annual growth figure into negative territory.
Provisional results show a modest 1.9 percent growth for calendar year 2008 in these same 37 destinations with only the Pacific region suffering a drop (4.6 percent) compared to 2007. Analysis of growth in percentage terms for the final quarter of 2008 shows Malaysia taking nine of the top ten spots (based on a minimum of 10,000 arrivals per quarter) but it includes some very small numeric bases from origin markets such as Iran and Nepal.
This latest PATA Tourism Monitor covers 37 destinations in the Americas, Asia, and Pacific regions and the dramatic downturn in international arrivals for Q4 08 in markets such as Japan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka reflects both the worsening global economic climate and regional/national issues. In contrast, some markets showed remarkable levels of growth year-on-year in the final three months of 2008 but, again, often based on relatively small numeric bases.
It was good news for Mexico (up 9.1 percent in Q4 08 and 5.9 percent Jan-Dec); Bhutan (up 37.9 percent in Q4 08 and 31.2 per-cent Jan-Dec); Indonesia (up 17.2 percent in Q4 08 and 15.4 percent Jan-Dec); New Caledonia (up 38.7 percent in Q4 08 and 23.2 percent Jan-Dec); and Papua New Guinea (up 39.1 percent in Q4 08 and 15.4 percent Jan-Dec).
The figures are much less encouraging for Sri Lanka (down 15.6 percent in Q4 08 and down 11.2 percent Jan-Dec); Thailand (down 28 percent in Q4 08 and down 5 percent Jan-Dec); Hawaii (down 15.5 percent in Q4 08 and down 10.6 percent Jan-Dec); Tahiti (down 15.1 percent in Q4 08 and down 10 percent Jan-Dec); and Japan (down 12.2 percent in Q4 08 but up 2.2 percent Jan-Dec).
Region by region, only the Pacific showed a decline in 2008 (4.6 percent) compared to 2007, although figures recorded for Guam and Samoa for Q4 are provisional and December data is not yet available for the USA, Japan, and Korea (ROK). Americas shows annual growth of 3.5 percent; Northeast Asia – 1.6 percent; South Asia 3.9 percent, and Southeast Asia 2.3 percent.
“It’s clear that we have some way to go before we can see real, uninterrupted light at the end of the tunnel,” said PATA’s SIC director John Koldowski. “We know that travel trends are changing, and changing fast. This will have a varying degree of impact on destinations across the Asia Pacific and beyond. The belt tightening will undoubtedly continue and the battle for market-share is now in full swing.”