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Pacific Asia Travel Association

‘Much improved’ year-end figures for visitors to Asia Pacific region

Preliminary figures released today by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) indicate that the numbers of international visitors to the Asia Pacific region fell by an estimated three percent year-on-year for calendar year 2009, a much improved result considering the fact that the rate of decline was six percent for the first half of the year.

The stronger-than-expected pick up in travel demand in the second half of the year saw visitor arrivals to the region grow by one percent year-on-year in the July-December period.

Southeast Asia emerged as the only sub-region in Asia Pacific to record a full-year gain in international arrivals during 2009. Visitor numbers rose one percent year-on-year, supported by Myanmar (+26 percent), Malaysia (+7 percent), Indonesia (+1 percent) and Cambodia (+2 percent). Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam, on the other hand, recorded full-year declines of three percent, four percent and ten percent respectively.

Arrivals to Northeast Asia fell by two percent in 2009, the second straight year of decline for the sub-region after a similar two percent fall in 2008. The full-year arrivals numbers were down for Japan (- 19 percent), Macau SAR (- 5 percent) and China (PRC) (- 3 percent) while Chinese Taipei (+14 percent) and Korea (ROK) (+13 percent) posted increased visitor numbers. Hong Kong SAR recorded a marginal 0.3 percent increase in arrivals for the year.

South Asia recorded a three percent decline in visitor arrivals in 2009, driven by a similar three percent fall in arrivals to India. While growth in arrivals to India remained sluggish in the second half of the year, arrivals rebounded strongly for Sri Lanka and Nepal during the period resulting in full-year gains to those destinations of two percent and one percent respectively.

Visitor arrivals to the Pacific declined by two percent in 2009 mainly on sharp falls in visitor numbers to Guam (- 8 percent) and Hawaii (- 4 percent). Arrivals to Australia and New Zealand were flat.

The Americas recorded the largest decline in arrivals among the sub-regions with an estimated six percent fall for the full year. The numbers of international visitor arrivals to Canada, the USA and Mexico were down for the year while Chile recorded a one percent increase.

Kris Lim, Director of PATA’s Strategic Intelligence Centre (SIC), says, “We ended the year on a positive note with international visitor arrivals to Asia Pacific shores growing by four percent year-on-year in December. This is by far the largest monthly growth in 2009. It has been an extremely challenging year but not the worst on record in growth terms.

“Arrivals fell even more sharply in 2003, by seven percent, as the SARS crisis impacted severely on international travel. The recovery in 2010 is, however, unlikely to follow the V-shaped rebound of 2004. We are better placed now than six months ago as the economic climate continues to improve. The IMF is now expecting stronger growth of 3.9 percent for the world’s economy this year, with ‘developing Asia’ leading the way at 8.4 percent,” he adds.