While there is some improvement in travel demand, it remains uneven and highly variable.
BANGKOK - The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has been collating, assessing and sharing international visitor arrival (IVA) forecasts annually for the past two decades. With the onset of COVID-19 and the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic, these forecasts, published in conjunction with Hong Kong Polytechnic University, have been increased in frequency to be distributed quarterly. Given the level of uncertainty and a number of myriad factors driving travel industry recovery, these forecasts have been published under a range of three scenarios – mild, moderate and severe pandemic impact.
The latest scenario forecasts for IVAs into 39 Asia Pacific destinations between 2022 and 2024, show generally strong growth rates following a slight annual gain in foreign arrival numbers in 2021 under the mild scenario. For the medium and severe scenarios, calendar year 2021 is expected to be the bottom of the arrivals trough, with substantial annual growth rates occurring thereafter to 2024.
These will result in strong increases in absolute numbers of IVAs, however, only under the mild scenario is the volume of international arrivals expected to exceed that of 2019 and then only in 2024. The medium scenario predicts IVAs reaching a similar volume as that of 2019 by 2024, however, the severe scenario suggests a shortfall of almost 30% by 2024.
In absolute terms, the number of international arrivals forecast for 2022 now ranges from almost 315 million under the mild scenario, to 229 million under the medium scenario and 159 million under the severe scenario.
Asia is predicted to return to a significant level of dominance, supplying more than 64% of all IVAs into Asia Pacific in 2024, under each of the three scenarios, followed by the Americas and Europe.
Overall, while the trends in these latest forecasts are positive, there are still challenges ahead, not the least of which will be containing the spread of the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19.
As PATA CEO Liz Ortiguera notes, “International travel recovery to and within the Asia Pacific region is projected to return moderately over the next three years. Recovery will be uneven into the various sub-regions and destinations and will most likely still remain volatile over the next few years. Some individual destinations may see success but expedited recovery of the region requires a more collaborative approach.”
She further adds, “Ministries across the region have prioritized health and safety protocols for the local community and the incoming visitors, but access to vaccines is still an issue in many destinations. PATA is advocating for more support for vaccine donations and delivery campaigns championed by the WHO Foundation and UNICEF for the COVAX initiative. To advance this initiative, we have just launched a Global Travel Sector Vaccine Coalition in support of WHO Foundation and in collaboration with Virgin Atlantic and Collinson.
Liz concludes by noting that, “Destination management and destination marketing are now more critical and complex than ever. This mindset shift to destination management recognises that destination stakeholders are vital partners in travel and tourism. This bodes well for developing a more sustainable travel ecosystem. Destination marketing is now multifaceted in terms of the stakeholders involved and key messages to be delivered. Given these needs and challenges, collaboration is key”.