PATA Releases “Soft” May Arrival Figures for Asia Pacific Region
By James Ruggia
August 30, 2012 12:57 PM
The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), for the second month in a row, is reporting soft May visitor arrival figures. Like the PATA region itself, however, the May numbers reflect vastly different realities.
PATA’s 43 member states stretch across a region running East to West from Pakistan to Colorado. For most of PATA’s Asian destinations, moderate single digit growth over the performance of May 2011, is perceived as soft. “It is evident that the toughening global marketplace is having an impact on the Asia Pacific region,” said Martin Craigs, PATA’s CEO. “None of us can afford to be complacent as we reach the midway point of calendar year 2012.”
International visitor arrivals into Asia Pacific destinations during May 2012 showed a collective gain of 3 percent year-over-year according to preliminary results released PATA. This was the second consecutive month with a declining growth rate and, according to PATA, heralds the impact of the various economic contagions across the globe. For the first five months of 2012, the average growth in international visitor arrivals into Asia Pacific destinations was 6 percent up year-on-year.
PATA said North America is showing a similar but more volatile growth pattern. After registering a solid 12 percent increase in foreign arrivals during March, the growth trend reduced to just 0.5 percent in April and then contracted by 1 percent in May 2012. Canada and the U.S. managed to sustain positive growth of 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively, during the month but a contraction in international arrivals into Mexico for both April and May (down 6 percent each month) has affected the overall sub-regional performance. A slowing of intra-regional travel demand was the major negative factor along with a 4 percent drop in U.K. arrivals.
According to PATA, growth to Northeast Asia was also somewhat slower with a 4 percent increase, year-over-year. A general softening of foreign travel flows and falling demand between China and its two SARs continued to constrain overall growth in arrivals to China (down 2 percent) and Macau SAR (down 7 percent) during the month of May. But arrivals to Chinese Taipei (up 27 percent), Hong Kong SAR (up 13 percent) and Korea (ROK) (up 27 percent) were robust and well supported by a rebound in arrivals from Japan and the resilient Chinese market. Japan had an exceptional result (up 87 percent) but has yet to reach the pre-crisis level of international arrivals, although that is likely to happen within the next few months.
Foreign arrivals to South Asia grew by a moderate 6 percent during the month. Despite a weak result from the Maldives (up 1 percent) and a relatively slower month for Nepal (up 9 percent), the overall trend for the sub-region still showed some promise compared to the previous month. India was up 5 percent during May while Sri Lanka managed a double-digit growth in arrivals (up 18 percent). This upward trend seems to be continuing as early results for June suggest another lift in the arrivals growth rate.
Even under these trying conditions, PATA said Southeast Asia still managed solid growth of 8 percent during the month to become the fastest growing destination in Asia Pacific. Even so the growth trend is still downward, falling from a high of 15 percent in March to 9 percent in April and 8 percent in May. There are positives however. The Philippines showed a slower but still significant increase of 6 percent after four consecutive months of double-digit growth. Similarly Cambodia (up 23 percent), Indonesia (up 8 percent), Singapore (up 14 percent) and Thailand (up 8 percent) performed well above the sub-region’s average, while Myanmar in particular was very strong performer recording a 53 percent gain in foreign arrivals during May 2012. Vietnam posted negative growth (down 13 percent) for the month, the first time this has happened since September 2011.
PATA said the relatively strong performance of the Pacific in recent months, continued through May. After closing a year of stagnant growth in 2011, the upward trend kicked off in January and maintained momentum since March. Although travel demand remains volatile, the short-term outlook seems very promising. During May 2012, foreign arrivals to the Pacific grew 8 percent year-over-year, driven largely by the robust growth in foreign arrivals to Guam (up 17 percent) and Hawaii (up 12 percent). Most of the smaller island destinations in the Pacific also reported positive growth led by Samoa (up 30 percent), the Northern Marianas (up 20 percent) and Tahiti (up 8 percent). The larger dominant destinations of Australia (up 2 percent) and New Zealand (flat), recorded another month of relatively slower growth or stagnation.