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Asians To Travel More Within Asia as Downturn Hardens

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As the global recession bites, Asian tourism is moving towards a reliance on tourists from within Asia, and even increasingly, for those that have such a market, domestic tourism.

However, the traditional tourism generating powerhouses of Japan and South Korea are facing painful economic problems. Only China and India currently offer much hope. Even in these two emerging markets, travellers have already reduced their trips and say they will reduce more in 2009.

These are the findings of The ITB World Travel Trends Report, which was written by IPK International and officially published on Monday by Messe Berlin.

The report draws on results from the World Travel Monitor by IPK, a continuous and representative survey interviewing 500,000 persons in 58 countries around the world each year. Combined with statistics from the UNWTO, the report delivers a highly detailed picture of what happened in 2008 and what is likely to happen in 2009 and beyond.

IPK’s survey shows that 40% of Europeans will change their travel plans in 2009 due to the economic crisis. “When people change their travel plans they reduce the frequency of travel, travel for shorter periods, and travel closer to home,” said Dr Martin Buck, Director of the Competence Center, Travel & Logistics, at Messe Berlin.

The new hopes for the future, China and India, have reduced their rate of growth. The report predicts that both will still produce growth in 2009, but at lower growth rates than 2008. But prospects for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan do not look as good.

The travel closer to home trend emerged in 2008. Europe turned out to be the main loser, suffering a 5% drop in demand from South Korea, while South Koreans travelling to the Americas and within Asia remained constant.

The report suggests that European destinations that usually attract a large number of Asian travellers will be in for a hard time in 2009.

Chinese tourists have also started travelling within Asia more. The ITB World Travel Trends Report report shows a 10% growth at the expense of Europe, which was flat in 2008. However, the Americas enjoyed a 16% increase in Chinese visitors in 2008.

“There is huge pent-up demand for travel to USA among Chinese of all age groups in the higher socio-economic classes,” said Dr Buck.

In terms of relative growth, India did even better in 2008 than the Chinese market. Indian trip volume grew 13% and exceeded all growth expectations. However, on this occasion, Europe appears to have been the main beneficiary with a 25% increase in Indian visitors in 2008.

“When you look at these numbers, it justifies the decisions by some European national tourism organisations to open offices and hire destination marketing representatives in India,” said Dr Buck. “India is one of the few markets that hold out hope for 2009. But no one should take India for granted either.”

Making accurate predictions for 2009 will be very difficult concludes the report. The ITB World Travel Trends Report, drawing on IPK’s research, states: “Although current forecasts are almost certain to be changed many times during the year, there seems little doubt that global outbound travel volume will decline in 2009. But the economic downturn will create new winners, as well as losers. On the positive side, internet bookings will surge, demand for online virtual meetings will gather pace, domestic travel might stay more or less stable or even grow (as might demand for low-fare flights), and destinations adjacent to big travel markets will do not so badly. But long-haul travel from all markets will fall. And the most pain will be felt in the business travel and meetings industry.”

The next ITB, the ITB Asia, will take place at the Suntec Singapore Exhibition & Convention Centre between 21-23 October, 2009.

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