Asia Pacific receives nearly a quarter of all international tourist arrivals

26 June 2018 5 min. read
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The Asia Pacific region last year received nearly a quarter of all international tourist arrivals according to figures from hotel, tourism & leisure consulting network Horwath HTL, with strong growth expected to continue.

The booming international tourism sector shows no sign of slowing, with international tourist arrival numbers growing 7 percent globally in 2017 according to data from Horwath HTL – the hotel, tourism & leisure consulting arm of the Crowe Horwath network (its international accounting division recently rebranding to Crowe). In total, 1.3 billion tourist arrivals were recorded last year, following on from the 1 billion threshold being broken in 2012, and the 669 million clocked at the turn of the century.

By 2030, the number of international tourists is expected to balloon to 1.8 billion, with a 4-5% growth rate forecast for this year – above the 3.8 percent average increase projected for the by the UN’s World Tourism Organisation between 2010 and 2020. Altogether, the firm says, the tourism industry has become one of fastest growing economic sectors across the globe. As it stands, the Asia Pacific commands nearly a quarter of the international visitors each year.Growth in Asia Pacific tourism marketFor 2017, this amounted to 324 million tourist arrivals in the Asia Pacific (+6%) – with North-East Asia accounting for nearly one half of those with 159 million arrivals recorded. Traditionally, East Asia has been the strongest regional tourism market – due to world-class infrastructure and strong health and safety conditions according to Horwath HTL – yet for 2017, growth was at just 3%. Despite being an established market, however, tourism growth in Japan was at a whopping 19%.

Balancing the slower growth in East Asia, was the fastest growing sub-region of South Asia, recording a 10% rise to 28 million tourists, and Oceania, which pushed to 17 million tourist arrivals courtesy of a 7% growth rate. The rising star of the region however continues to be Southeast Asia, with 120 million tourists for 2017 at 8% growth – driven by the region’s natural resources, competitive prices, and mix of adventure and relaxation.Top ten Asian cities for tourismWhile Bangkok remains the number one tourist destination globally, attracting 21.5 million visitors in 2016 (the latest available comparative figures) to beat out the global centres of London, Paris, Dubai and New York, the top-ten international destination list by arrival numbers also features Singapore (12.1 million), Kuala Lumpur (12 million), Tokyo (11.7 million) and Seoul (10.2 million). As for the Asia Pacific top-ten, these regional hubs are followed in order by Hong Kong, Taipei, Osaka and Shanghai – all recording between 6 and 8.5 million tourist visitors.

In terms of growth, however, Osaka has been the shining light, with Japan’s second largest city registering a compound average annual growth rate of 24% between 2009 and 2016. Tokyo too managed a healthy 17% over this period, while the other fastest growing cities in the Asia Pacific in this time were Chengdu in China (+22.7), and the Sri Lankan, Indonesian and Vietnamese capitals Colombo (20.3%), Jakarta (18.2%) and Hanoi (16.4). Ho Chi Minh City also grew by 11.2% – with Vietnam as a whole last year growing by a remarkable 29%.Top origin markets for Asian tourismMuch of this recent growth is due to strong intraregional demand – a general overall feature of the Asia Pacific tourism market, with 80% of regional traffic now deriving from within the region. Over the past seven years, Chinese outbound tourists to the Asia Pacific have grown at a compound annual average rate of 25.8% to now contribute 16.2% of the total international visitor numbers in the region. The largest origin markets after China include South Korea (10.5%), Taiwan (7%) and Japan (5.8%).

In turn, the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists were Bangkok, Seoul and Tokyo. And while, for example, no Australian city made the list of top-twenty destinations for Chinese tourists, their impact remains significant. An analysis by L.E.K. Consulting last year noted a, at CAGR of 19% between 2011 and 2015 in Chinese visitors to Australia, with an average spend of $5,300 – the highest among any visiting nationalities. Altogether, the consulting firm calculated the potential worth to the Australian economy at $8 billion a year by 2025.

The Chinese led-aviation boom in the Asia Pacific and across the globe has also led to a number of Asian destinations currently scrambling to upgrade their airport infrastructure, with projects including the massive Terminal 5 addition to Changi in Singapore, which recently awarded a range of engineering and design consulting contracts, as well as airport expansions to address stretched capacity in Ho Chi Minh City and projects in Beijing, Yogyakarta and Bangkok. Meanwhile, a recent KPMG report outlined the Thai government's push to further boost its medical tourism industry