India outperforms as visitor forecasts receive upgrades
The forecast for Asia-Pacific tourism has been upgraded thanks to further easing of travel restrictions after an improvement in the viral situation and vaccine coverage across destinations, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata).
The latest edition of visitor forecasts for 2022-24 in Asia-Pacific projected reaching 36.2% of 2019 levels this year, an increase from the forecast of 32.6% in April, said Haiyan Song, associate dean at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
By 2024, the number of tourists to the region will recover to 832 million in a best-case scenario, 694 million in a base-case scenario, and 510 million in a worst-case scenario.
"Further recovery has been derailed by tight border controls in Northeast Asia, particularly in China, which is likely to remain closed until 2023," said Mr Song at the "Pata Visitor Forecast Updates – The impact of reopening on recovery patterns" webinar.
As Thailand lifted most travel requirements on May 1, tourism arrivals in 2022 should reach 27.8% of 2019 levels, up from a 19.9% prediction earlier.
The top priority for travellers consists of safety and assurance of a smooth journey, so destinations have to clarify tourism requirements to make people feel more comfortable despite travel rules, said Liz Ortiguera, Pata chief executive.
Mayur Patel, regional sales director at OAG, an aviation data analysis firm, said the Indian market has outperformed other Asia-Pacific countries with a faster rebound and is expected to become the new China over the next five years.
India has seen the lowest percentage change at 12.5% in international capacity between week 20 of 2022 and week 20 of 2019, compared to China at 93.7%.
He said destination management companies are looking at India as the new source for the mid-term outlook.
This year, available air capacity in Asia is estimated to regain 55% of 2019 level.
Full recovery of air travel is heavily reliant on the reopening policy in China which may not happen until mid-2023.
Japan might start to ease travel rules, but the move is expected to make minimal difference.
"Optimism will progress in a very slow manner with challenges from inflation, geopolitical issues and economic recession," said Mr Patel.
Meanwhile, the aviation landscape would change, especially low-cost carriers in Southeast Asia which tend to expand network with single-aisle fleets to compete in long-haul markets with cost-effective aircraft.
The war in Ukraine has slowed tourism recovery, causing a surge in food and energy prices and put more pressure on global inflation, said Caroline Bremner, head of travel research at Euromonitor International.
As global inflation has doubled since January, consumers faced challenges from higher expenditure as businesses that cannot absorb all the costs have to pass the burden on to consumers.
Ms Bremner said Asia-Pacific consumers tend to look for all-inclusive tourism packages to control budget, according to Euromonitor's "Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey" in February.
In addition, consumers in different income groups showed high interest in sustainable travel such as eco-tourism, wellness and sports.