As the final numbers on Asia’s 2008 tourism
performance are tallied, preliminary results from different sources
suggest that the winners in terms of inbound tourism included Indonesia
with 17% and Macau with 10%. Southeast and South Asia tied for best
performing sub-region, with average increases of 4% each.
Yet the general trend for Asia, usually a star
performer in terms of both inbound and outbound international
travel, was very mixed in 2008 due to rising fuel costs and
surcharges. Inbound international arrivals growth of 6% from
January to June 2008 turned to a 2-3% deficit in the second half,
according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), as economic
clouds gathered and the oil price hikes hit home.
2009 is likely to be an even more challenging year. “In addition to
Japan, which has been soft for a few years now, a number of other
leading source markets for Asia suffered declines in outbound
travel in 2008 that are likely to continue in 2009,” said Rolf Freitag, President & CEO of IPK International, founder of the
World Travel Monitor, on which much of the ITB World Travel Trends
Report 2009 is based.
Mr Freitag said continued
economic downturns in Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan will
hit travel across much of Asia, which receives around 70% of its
arrivals from within the region.
“It is still
possible that Asia could start to recover before the end of 2009,”
said Dr Martin Buck, Director of the Competence Center Travel &
Logistics at Messe Berlin, which commissions the ongoing research
“Initial findings in the World Travel
Trends Report still point to a modest overall growth in outbound
travel demand from Asian markets in 2009. We expect short-haul
travel to gain at the expense of long-haul demand. And if oil
prices stay low, there could be another surge in low-cost flights
in the region,” Dr Buck said.
Economic weakness in
Asia has implications for the rest of the world. Japan is still
the only Asian outbound travel market to rank among the world’s
top ten source countries for travel and tourism. The Japanese made
an estimated 16.5 million trips in 2008 – a 1.5 million drop on
2007. While China's official outbound trip count is much higher,
at around 40 million, some 70% of these trips are to Hong Kong and
Macau, special administrative regions of China. Non-Hong Kong and
Macau outbound trips were 13-14 million, according to IPK.
Official Chinese data says this was still 14% up on 2007.
Residual travel demand from China in 2009, despite rapidly
slowing economic growth, will mean China remains a much
sought-after source market this year.
consumers across Asia, not just in China, are becoming an
increasingly powerful market for travel too. According to Dr Yuwa
Hedrick-Wong, economic advisor, Asia Pacific, MasterCard
Worldwide, personal travel in Asia was seen as an item of luxury
expenditure 10 to 15 years ago. An overseas trip was a rare treat
for the average young consumer.
“This has now
changed,” said Mr Hedrick-Wong. “Young consumers in Asia Pacific
now typically see personal travel as a key activity in their
lifestyles. Our research on consumer purchasing priorities shows
personal travel ranking among the top discretionary spend
priorities for consumers in the region. For young consumers,
travel is not something they want to put off. Younger consumers in
Asia would postpone buying a car, but not put off going somewhere
for their next vacation.”
More details on
trends out of Asia’s source markets, and other emerging markets
around the world, will be available from the ITB Berlin Message,
the annual event held during the ITB Convention on ITB Future Day,
Wednesday 11 March. In the Message, IPK’s Rolf Freitag will
present final tourism results for 2008, with an update on
prospects for 2009 – all of which will be published later the same
month in the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2009.
ITB Berlin 2009 will
be taking place from Wednesday, 11 to Sunday, 15 March, and will
be open to trade visitors from the Wednesday to the Friday.
Parallel with the trade fair, the ITB Berlin Convention will be
taking place from Wednesday, 11 to Saturday, 14 March 2009.
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