Collective international arrivals into Asia Pacific destinations grew by 4% year-on-year during April 2012, according to preliminary data released by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). In percentage growth terms, this result was relatively constrained across the region compared to the robust expansion achieved during the first quarter of the year. A number of factors underlie this result including a comparison with the high numeric base of April 2011, which in turn was influenced by a rebound in travel demand following a number of major natural disasters in the region, and an earlier Easter holiday period in 2012 shifting some visitor volume to March. For the first four months of 2012, Asia Pacific recorded a collective gain of 7% year-on-year.
Foreign inbound growth to North America was weak at 0.5%. This softening however, comes on the heels of 12% growth in March where travel demand was supported by the Easter holiday period. Both the US and Canada reported positive growth of 2%, whereas Mexico saw a decline of 6%, largely as a result of diminishing demand in air arrivals from the US and Canada. Intra-regional flows within North American destinations and travellers from Japan and China were the main contributors to growth in April 2012.
International arrivals to Northeast Asia grew by 5% during the month. Foreign travel flows softened in China and contracted in the two SARs pushing the overall growth in international visitor arrivals to the Mainland into a decline of 4%. Foreign arrivals however, remained positive with a gain of 4% for the month. Macau SAR recorded another slow month with a 2% year-on-year increase while, the remaining destinations in the sub-region all recorded robust growth – Chinese Taipei (+26%), Hong Kong SAR (+14%), Japan (+164%) and Korea (ROK) (+28%). The large intra-regional flows were behind this main boost to tourism growth coupled with Japan’s comparative position relative to April 2011. Positive trends have continued for arrivals from the Americas and Europe to Northeast Asia despite the uncertainties in the Eurozone. It is also interesting to see that during the first four months of this year, while foreign arrivals to Japan were still 4% lower than for the corresponding pre-tsunami period of 2010, Japan outbound demand was flourishing and set a new record with more than 6 million departures during the first four months of 2012. Most destinations across Asia Pacific have benefited from this strong increase in outbound demand from Japan, especially Korea (ROK), Chinese Taipei and the USA.
South Asia registered a positive but slower aggregate gain of 5% during April 2012. Growth was uneven across the destinations and ranged from a 1% decrease for the Maldives to a massive (in relative terms) 43% increase for Bhutan. India (+3%) and Sri Lanka (+9%) posted somewhat slower results compared to the first quarter of the year while Nepal joined Bhutan in posting a double-digit gain in arrivals (14%).
Southeast Asia retained its position as the fastest growing sub-region in Asia Pacific with a 9% increase in international arrivals during the month. The smaller volume destinations, notably Cambodia (+24%), Myanmar (+35%) and the Philippines (+10%) maintained a strong growth rate in April 2012, while Singapore (+9%) and Thailand (+7%) grew at a moderate pace. Despite the more moderate growth levels for these latter two destinations, collectively they added around 200,000 additional international-visitor arrivals to the sub-region for the month, virtually half of the total volume gain for Southeast Asia.
Travel demand to the Pacific was up 6% during April 2012. Growth to the sub-region was boosted by strong arrivals as in Guam (+24%) and Hawaii (+9%) where the recovery of the Japanese outbound market had a positive impact. On the other hand, foreign arrivals to Australia and New Zealand were sluggish with those destinations recording +1% and -1% growth, respectively. Nonetheless, both destinations have continued to see travel demand holding up well from the Chinese market, particularly New Zealand. Other smaller Pacific destinations recorded somewhat slower performances with the exception of the Northern Marianas (+42%), where once again arrivals from China are having a significant and positive impact.
Martin J Craigs, PATA CEO, said “Global economic conditions continue to be trying, yet travel demand for Asia Pacific destinations continues to generally remain positive albeit with a wide range of performances at both destination and origin market levels. During the first four months of 2012, Asia Pacific destinations added close to 9 million additional international arrivals to the collective count putting the region well on the road to yet another record year in terms of foreign inbound numbers. However, the dynamics of these flows are changing and it will be interesting to see just how these play out in the months ahead.”