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December 2, 2023

PATA: Momentum in International Visitor Growth into and Across Asia Pacific Continues to Build

Momentum in International Visitor Growth

Following strong annual percentage increases in international visitor arrivals (IVAs) in 2022, predictions now are for a peak in that growth momentum in 2023 year-over-year, before slowly moderating in strength to 2025, as pent-up demand gradually eases.

 The latest scenario forecasts from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) for international arrivals into 39 Asia Pacific destinations covered in the Executive Summary report released today, predict that under the mild scenario, the return to pre-COVID levels of IVAs will occur in 2023; under the medium scenario that is projected to occur in 2024, while under the severe scenario, even by the end of 2025, arrival numbers are predicted to still lag the 2019 benchmark by around 12%.

In absolute terms, the number of international arrivals estimates for 2023 range from 713 million under the mild scenario to 512 million under the medium scenario and 383 million under the severe scenario.

While the forecasts for annual increases in international visitor numbers into and across Asia Pacific are strong for each year from 2023 to 2025 under all three scenarios, there are still significant variations under each of those scenarios for individual destination regions and within those, the destinations themselves.

The annual growth rate for IVAs into and across Asia, for example, is predicted to be of the order of 254% in 2023 under the mild scenario, 171% under the medium scenario and 127% under the severe scenario. Such performances are supported by the recent news that China is slowly returning to international travel for both inbound and outbound.

The other destination regions of Asia Pacific are not forecast to grow as strongly as Asia, but still have significant growth rates and absolute volume increases, which, importantly, are predicted to remain positive from year to year between 2023 and 2025.

In addition, when evaluating the annual percentage gains, it must be remembered that while triple-digit annual growth rates look powerful, they translate into quite different absolute increases in IVAs; the annual percentage increases need to be tempered against the absolute increases in visitor numbers.

PATA Chair Peter Semone
Peter Semone, Chair, PATA

“Overall, while the trends in these latest forecasts are extremely positive, there are still significant challenges ahead, not the least of which will be managing the impacts of the various variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and whatever else might appear. Add to that the continually looming possibility of a global recession, ongoing geo-political conflicts, a persistent trade-war and changing landscapes in the face of climate change, and it seems advisable to at least consider the possibility of more years of uncertainty and to prepare accordingly,” said PATA Chair Peter Semone. “We were warned with SARS in 2003/2004 but did not fully heed it and consequently paid an enormous humanitarian and economic price with COVID-19. Lessons must be learned and remembered.”

“International travel has already returned to and across the Asia Pacific region to some degree, however, growth over the next few years will largely be uneven for various sub-regions and destinations, in the face of their own local disruptions. The need for a mindset shift from merely marketing a destination to managing visitor demand in a responsible and sustainable manner remains a critical issue for the travel and tourism sector. While the lure of revenue is seductive after years of losses, it should not be the only driving force behind the rebuilding of the supply-side elements of international travel and tourism,” added Mr. Semone.

Semone concludes by noting that, “Another critical issue for the travel and tourism sector is staffing; we need appropriately trained and motivated personnel and that in turn necessitates education, realistic salaries and benefits, and a transparent promotion pathway for those staff. The sector lost millions of workers during the COVID-19 years and luring them back will be a difficult task unless conditions improve. Developing a more harmonious and equitable tourism system of necessity, involves destinations, suppliers, local communities, and workers. Get that mix right and we will be on the road to a sustainable and equitable long-term future.”

What you will learn from this report:

Forecast international visitor numbers for Asia Pacific between 2023 and 2025 by destination region, sub-region, and destination, highlighting changing demand preferences in the post-COVID era; and

Forecasts for 39 individual destinations facilitating the development of appropriate strategies over the next three years.

The PATA Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts Executive Summary 2023-2025 is now available at https://www.pata.org/research-q1v63g6n2dw/p/asia-pacific-visitor-forecasts-2023-2025.

PATA International members have exclusive access to the Forecast webinar recording, “How Would the Opening of China Impact on Demand for Tourism in the Asia Pacific Region” which was held on Thursday, January 26, 2023. The webinar included expert speakers from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), Euromonitor International, and OAG. The speakers provided an overview of the forecasts for international arrivals to Asia Pacific between 2023 and 2025 from their unique positions of forecasting arrivals, monitoring changing consumer sentiment, and aviation capacity.

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