The 40 members of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) have reached the sort of critical mass in foreign arrivals that one expects from a fully arrived tourism region. PATA is reporting that Asia and the Pacific attracted what is expected to be in excess of 350 million international visitor arrivals, expanding its collective inbound count by more than 5 percent and generating more than 18 million additional foreign visits, year-on-year.
This is the third consecutive year in which foreign arrivals growth has remained positive for the region. Of the 40 separate destinations covered, only five reported contractions for the year. Most of those were relatively marginal for the region as a whole. The only exception was China, which, with a contraction in growth of 2.2 percent, is estimated to have lost around 3 million international arrivals (foreign and compatriot) from its 2011 total international inbound count.
The picture is quite different for foreign arrivals to China however (i.e. excluding compatriot arrivals). The year 2012 saw an increase of 1.6 percent in that inbound volume, year-on-year. Southeast Asia was the strongest performer in 2012 in annual percentage growth terms, with a gain of 9.9 percent for the year. This equated to an increase of more than eight million additional arrivals over the previous year and pushed the ASEAN aggregate international inbound count to almost 89 million.
Within this sub-region, Myanmar had a staggering increase of almost 52 percent in arrivals, while Cambodia and Lao PDR reported gains of 24 percent and 22 percent respectively. All three destinations created new records with Myanmar breaking the million arrivals mark (in total) for the first time. Cambodia and Lao PDR both also broke the three million mark. They were not alone as every destination within the ASEAN region set new highs in terms of international arrivals.
After several years of strong double-digit growth rates, South Asia is now settling back somewhat, but still returning strong gains. For example, 2012 saw strong gains of 6.6 percent and an increase of well over half-a-million additional international arrivals. Sri Lanka, with growth of almost 18 percent saw its foreign arrivals count pass the one million mark, while the Maldives fell just short of it. India remains the titan within South Asia however, with more than 6.6 million arrivals and a year-on-year gain of close to 340,000 additional foreign arrivals, some 59 percent of the total additional increase in the arrivals volume to the sub-region.
Northeast Asia maintained a growth rate of almost 4 percent for the year. It dominated the visitor increase count by receiving close to 8.5 million additional international arrivals year-on-year. Japan turned in the strongest percentage growth with a gain of 35 percent for the year, a performance that saw the destination recoup the losses in visitor arrivals following the tsunami of 2011 and move once again into record arrivals territory. Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong SAR and Korea (ROK) also added to the sub-regional performance with growth increases of 20 percent, 16 percent and 14 percent respectively.
After a somewhat mediocre performance in 2011 (+0.3 percent growth), the Pacific bounced back strongly in 2012 to post a collective gain across eighteen destinations of 6 percent. This equated to an increase of better than 1.1 million additional international arrivals to the sub-region, which now collectively boasts an international inbound volume tantalizingly close to 20 million. The Northern Marianas (+17.4 percent), Vanuatu (15.1 percent) and Guam (+12.8 percent) reported the strongest percentage gains, while Hawaii, Australia and Guam posted the greatest gains in additional arrivals for the year.
Across the Asia/Pacific region, preliminary figures suggest that the top five destinations, by growth in international visitor arrivals, were: Myanmar, Japan, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Chinese Taipei; with each showing a year-on-year increase of 20 percent or better. In volume terms, there were six particularly significant outcomes with Hong Kong SAR, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Korea (ROK) and Chinese Taipei each securing in excess of one million additional arrivals in 2012; the SAR of Hong Kong saw 6.7 million additional international arrivals.