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By Liv Raban:

Last week came bearing good news for the Asia-Pacific travel industry. The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) announced on Thursday that in the space of just one year, the number of international arrivals into Asia-Pacific destinations had increased by 10 per cent. This is a huge climb in such a short space of time, especially at a time when so many visitor countries are facing increased financial hardship and austerity measures.

While many developed countries continue to experience struggles in their respective tourism industries, the respite for the global travel and aviation industries lies with Asia, being the continent that is expected to bring in the most revenue this year. At the world’s aviation summit in Beijing this year, Tony Tyler, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, announced an expected profit for the global aviation indstury of just $3 billion. This is compared with figures of $7.1 billion in 2011. Asia is expected to bring in around $2 billion of this profit while Europe – on the other hand – would be contributing devastating losses of $1.1 billion.

All sub regions grow

All sub regions of Asia-Pacific reported a solid growth, with North America, the Pacific, South Asia and Southeast Asia showing double digit increases in arrivals. Northeast Asia also fared well, increasing by 8%.

Southeast Asia came out top as the fastest growing sub region in Asia-Pacific, reporting a large growth of 15% in international arrivals in March 2012. This amazing result included a 12% growth for Thailand; the first time in six months that the country had reported double digit growth. This is especially good news for a country that was affected so badly by the devastating floods of last summer, which took their toll on the local tourism industry. All other destinations in Southeast Asia that formed part of this report experienced healthy growth. The success of this sub region can be especially attributed to the emergence of countries such as China, Korea and Russia (the ROC market) and their growing importance to western economies such as the UK and the USA.

Gateway to India, in Mumbai, the unofficial capital of South Asia. The region is experiencing a tourist boom.
The Nepal and Sri Lanka appeal

The second best-performing sub region of Asia-Pacific was South Asia, with year-on-year growths for March 2012 of 14%. All but one of the destinations that contributed towards this report experienced positive growth figures; the only destination with negative growth was the Maldives (5%). A particularly notable destination was Nepal, which has seen a year-on-year increase in international arrivals of 37%. Sri Lanka also performed remarkably, with a growth of 21%. These countries owe their successes to their increasing appeals as travel destinations for visitors from emerging countries, as well as their increasing accessibility. Major airline routes from countries such as the UK have been introduced in the past year, including a new route for Vietnam Airlines from London to Ho Chi Minh City (previously, visitors from the UK commonly travelled via Kuala Lumpur, adding several hours to journey times).

Third in line on PATA’s report was the Pacific region, which reported a growth of 12%. However, the increase in the number of visitors to this region was extremely uneven, with countries such as the Marshall Islands reporting a huge decline of 39%, while others such as Vanuatu reported sky-high increases of 108%.

Balinese dancers welcome passengers from an Australian cruise ship to their island utopia in the Indonesian archipelago. The passenger cruise industry is booming in Australia, and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific.
Success due to key industries

The success of the Asia-Pacific sub regions is also thanks to the development of several key tourism industries. One industry that could be particularly relevant to the success of the Pacific region, and which is booming on a global level, is that of passenger cruises. In Australia, for example, the International Cruise Council Australasia announced that in 2011, international passenger numbers reached a new high of 623,294 – a 34% annual increase that is “the largest recorded by any key world cruise market last year,” according to ICCA General Manager, Brett Jardine. Visitors that wish to take a Southwestern Pacific cruise now find themselves with a lot more choice of trips as cruise liners increase services to cater for demand – and thus contributing to the overall increase in international visitors of the region.

Liv Raban is an experienced travel and business writer who is currently based in the UK. She has traveled (and lived in) numerous countries, including Thailand and Australia, and continues to live nomadically.