Pacific Asia Region Sees Soft 4 Percent Tourism Growth in April
By James Ruggia
July 31, 2012 5:13 PM
The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) released its April figures that showed a 4 percent growth overall across the 43-country membership that spans from the Rockies to the Himalayas. Within that moderate growth were diverging degrees of strength and weakness depending on the region or the country involved.
According to PATA the April result “was relatively constrained across the region compared to the robust expansion achieved during the first quarter of the year.” It cited such factors as “the high numeric base of April 2011, which in turn was influenced by a rebound in travel demand following a number of major natural disasters in the region, and an earlier Easter holiday period in 2012 shifting some visitor volume to March.” For the first four months of 2012, Asia Pacific recorded a collective gain of 7 percent year-over-year.
Foreign inbound growth to North America in April was a weak 0.5 percent and came after a March that saw 12 percent growth when demand was supported by the Easter holiday period. Both the U.S. and Canada reported positive growth of 2 percent, whereas Mexico saw a decline of 6 percent, largely as a result of diminishing demand in air arrivals from the U.S. and Canada. Intra-regional flows within North American destinations and travelers from Japan and China were the main contributors to growth in April 2012.
International arrivals to Northeast Asia grew by 5 percent during the month. Foreign travel flows softened in China and contracted in Macau and Hong Kong, turning the overall growth in international visitor arrivals to China into a decline of 4 percent. Foreign arrivals however, remained positive with a gain of 4 percent for the month. Macau SAR recorded another slow month with a 2 percent year-over-year increase, while the remaining destinations in the sub-region all recorded robust growth – Chinese Taipei (up 26 percent), Hong Kong SAR (up 14 percent), Japan (up 164 percent) and Korea (ROK) (up 28 percent). Large intra-regional flows were behind this main boost to tourism growth coupled with Japan’s comparative position relative to April 2011. Positive trends have continued for arrivals from the Americas and Europe to Northeast Asia despite the uncertainties in the Eurozone.
During the first four months of this year, while foreign arrivals to Japan were still 4 percent lower than for the corresponding pre-tsunami period of 2010, Japan outbound demand was flourishing and set a new record with more than six million departures during the first four months of 2012. Most destinations across Asia Pacific have benefited from this strong increase in outbound demand from Japan, especially Korea (ROK), Chinese Taipei and the U.S.
South Asia registered a positive but slower aggregate gain of 5 percent during April. Growth was uneven across the destinations and ranged from a 1 percent decrease for the Maldives to a massive (in relative terms) 43 percent increase for Bhutan. India (up 3 percent) and Sri Lanka (up 9 percent) posted somewhat slower results compared to the first quarter of the year while Nepal joined Bhutan in posting a double-digit gain in arrivals (up 14 percent).
Southeast Asia retained its position as the fastest growing sub-region in Asia Pacific with a 9 percent increase in international arrivals during the month. The smaller volume destinations, notably Cambodia (up 24 percent), Myanmar (up 35 percent) and the Philippines (up 10 percent) maintained a strong growth rate in April 2012, while Singapore (up 9 percent) and Thailand (up 7 percent) grew at a moderate pace. Despite the more moderate growth levels for these latter two destinations, collectively they added around 200,000 additional international-visitor arrivals to the sub-region for the month, virtually half of the total volume gain for Southeast Asia.
Travel demand to the Pacific was up 6 percent during April 2012. Growth to the sub-region was boosted by strong arrivals as in Guam (up 24 percent) and Hawaii (up 9 percent) where the recovery of the Japanese outbound market had a positive impact. On the other hand, foreign arrivals to Australia and New Zealand were sluggish with those destinations recording just 1 percent growth and a 1 percent decline, respectively. Nonetheless, both destinations have continued to see travel demand holding up well from the Chinese market, particularly New Zealand. Other smaller Pacific destinations recorded somewhat slower performances with the exception of the Northern Marianas (up 42 percent), where once again arrivals from China are having a significant and positive impact.