For several decades the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has published forecasts of international visitor demand across a range of destinations within the Asia Pacific region. The report, to be released in April, contains forecasts for international visitor arrivals to 39 destinations within the region for the period 2017 to 2021.
It is important to note that the PATA forecasts relate to visitor arrivals as opposed to tourists (overnight visitors). This is done to consider the many near-border flows across the region that have a significant economic impact.
Not every Asia Pacific destination is included, mainly because of data limitations or timing. However, the destinations that are covered by these forecasts account for around 98 percent of the total inbound foreign arrivals into Asia Pacific destinations, as reported by PATA.
The forecasting unit of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPU) has been working for some time with PATA’s Strategic Intelligence Centre (SIC) to refine and further develop the forecasts to improve accuracy and reliability.
It comes as no surprise therefore to note that, over the last several years, when the forecasts have been compared to the actual arrival counts, the difference has been just one per cent. The integrity and robustness of these forecasts at the aggregate level is extremely high.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2016
Based on year-to-date data and the forecasts for 2016, current estimates are that the destinations as covered in the forecast report will return a combined inbound count in excess of 595 million foreign inbound arrivals. This would represent an annual growth rate of 3.4 percent on 2015 results and an annual volume increase of more than 19.6 million additional foreign arrivals.
The level of growth differs markedly across each of the Asia Pacific regions, depending on the metric used. Annual percentage growth, for example, ranges from a high of 6.8 percent to a low of 3.2 percent while the annual volume gain is clearly favouring the Asian destinations.
The origin market profile was dominated by the Asian source markets in 2016 (64.2% relative share), followed by the Americas (17.5%) and then Europe (11.0%).
While the Pacific had the strongest annual growth rate as a supplier of foreign arrivals (6.1%), this was off a relatively small absolute base of arrivals; the conversion to an actual increase in volume a little over 861,000.
Asian source markets had both a strong annual growth rate (5.2%) and a large numeric base of arrivals so that the increase in foreign arrivals between 2015 and 2016 equated to more than 19 million. This represents 97 percent of the net gain in additional foreign arrivals between 2015 and 2016.
There was significant variation in the dominant suppliers into each of the Asia Pacific regions however, with intra-regional flows for example, accounting for 58 percent of arrivals into the Americas (Americas to the Americas), and 82.6 percent of arrivals into Asia (Asia to Asia). In both cases the intra-regional flows showed the strongest numeric gains in foreign arrivals in 2016, relative to 2015.
The Pacific region breaks this intra-regional dominance trend with the majority of foreign arrivals coming from Asia (37.1%), followed by the Americas (31.1%). Once again, both those origin regions supplied the greatest absolute increase in foreign arrivals into the Pacific in 2016, although the intra-regional gains were not far behind those of the Americas into the Pacific.
At the sub-regional level it was once again all Asia with intra-regional flows in each of Northeast and Southeast Asia generating significant increases in absolute volume of arrivals between 2015 and 2016 as well as flows from Northeast Asia into Southeast Asia and vice-versa.
The European source markets were generally strong into most of the Asia Pacific sub-regions with the obvious exception of West Asia, specifically Turkey.
The strongest European numeric growth came from West, North and East Europe into Southeast Asia, but these increases were only just sufficient to cover the loss in arrivals from Europe into West Asia (-7.331 million). The result is that the overall flows from Europe into Asia Pacific were marginal for the year, relative to 2015.
The strongest individual European markets in 2016 were the UK and the Russian Federation into Southeast Asia, both of which increased their relative arrivals count into the sub-regional destination by more than a quarter of a million. These were followed by Germany, France and Spain which increased substantially their arrivals into Southeast Asia and Central America.
POTENTIAL FOR 2021
Over the five-year forecast period to 2021, foreign arrivals into the Asia Pacific destinations are expected to grow at an average rate of five percent per annum, reaching a combined foreign inbound count of close to 758 million.
By the start of the next decade the Americas (as defined in this report) will be receiving 156 million foreign arrivals annually while Asia can expect to receive over 573 million. The Pacific is forecast to receive over 28 million foreign arrivals annually.
The average annual growth rate of five percent for Asia Pacific destinations is driven largely by the 5.8 percent average growth rate into Asia which, by 2021, will account for over three-quarters of all foreign arrivals into the Asia Pacific destinations.
At this time (2021), Asia will generate more than half a billion of the foreign arrivals into Asia Pacific, constituting more than two-thirds of the total because of its consistently high average annual growth rate between 2016 and 2021.
The Americas and Europe will also be significant generators of foreign arrivals, the former numbering a little under 117 million by 2021 and Europe totalling over 76 million.
The intra-regional flows within Northeast and Southeast Asia, as well as the bi-directional flows across these two sub-regions, will continue to dominate the growth pattern in 2021 with the Northeast Asia-to-Northeast Asia flows alone numbering in excess of 300 million in that year.
The origin markets of West, North and East Europe will grow into the Asia Pacific over the forecast period. However, it is West Europe that will lead the way with an estimated volume into the Americas of almost 9.5 million arrivals in 2021.
West Asia is expected to see a return to growth in 2021 with West, East and North Europeans in showing substantial volumes into that destination in 2021. (Note: Turkey is the only destination in the West Asia grouping for which forecasts are available).
Southeast and Northeast Asia also see significant arrivals from Europe, especially from West and East Europe.
Dr. Mario Hardy, Chief Executive Officer of PATA, said, “The importance of the Asia Pacific region, both as a receiver and a generator of international arrivals, has been evident for some time and the momentum certainly appears to be holding over the next five years. With the maturing of many Asian source markets, destinations beyond the Asia Pacific region are also being increasingly explored. However, these destinations need to be ready to deliver a service that the increasingly sophisticated Asian traveller has already experienced in Asia and is now seeking in destinations further afield”.