Asia – a tourism powerhouse in 2019

UNWTO data show very strong performance with South and Southeast Asia topping the list

UNWTO data show very strong performance with South and Southeast Asia topping the list

With the coronavirus and ensuing economic difficulties muddying the waters when it comes to any projections, it is more useful to look at overall trends to date, which can to some extent be extrapolated for post-crisis planning.

In 2019, Chinese outbound travel continued to fuel growth in many destinations in the region and outside, though Chinese spending on travel abroad was 4% lower in real terms in the first half of 2019 according to available data.

  • South Asia (+8%) achieved, together with South-East Asia, the fastest growth among Asian subregions though slower than the 2018’s remarkable performance (+19%). Maldives recorded double-digit growth capitalising on the increase in visitors from the Chinese and European markets. Nepal and Bhutan continued to show strong results with Chinese and Indian visitors up. India, the subregion’s largest destination, showed comparatively more modest levels in arrivals but strong growth in receipts.
  • South-East Asia (+8%) recorded robust growth in 2019, with many destinations achieving double-digit rates. Myanmar led growth benefitting from a surge in Chinese visitors thanks to visa facilitation and enhanced air connectivity. Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Timor-Leste and Vietnam enjoyed solid results. Among the larger destinations, Malaysia continued to rebound with an increase in numbersfrom short- and medium-haul markets. Thailand, the subregion’s largest destination, showed slower growth after several years of solid performance partly due a strong currency.
  • North-East Asia saw a 2% increase in 2019, weighed down by the decline in arrivals in Hong Kong (China). The Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong suffered a sharp drop in arrivals from mainland China amid protests taking place during the second half of the year. The Republic of Korea led results in North-East Asia, thanks to increased visitors from China and South-East Asian markets.
  • Japan’s inbound tourism grew at a comparatively more moderate pace through November following several years of strong growth. The destination welcomed more visitors from top source markets China, Hong Kong (China) and Taiwan (province of China), but suffered a sharp decline from the Republic of Korea.
  • Arrivals in China, the regions’ largest destination, were up 7% in the first half of 2019, though receipts declined 12% in real terms in the first half of 2019.
Asia – a tourism powerhouse in 2019


According to Phocuswright’s Asia Pacific Online Travel Overview 2019, the fact that APAC’s hotel sector is quite fragmented, this is a key driver for online agencies.

The report, written and researched by Maggie Rauch and Deepak Jain, states that tourism infrastructure improvements, more advanced telecommunications and digital payments access are all fuelling travel booking growth, and the online share of travel revenue is advancing quickly. According to the report, the rapid offline to online migration of hotel bookings in China and Japan, coupled with mid­40% online hotel penetration in those markets underscores the remaining potential of the segment. These two markets combined will account for 74% of APAC online hotel gross bookings. Accordingly, deceleration in those markets will slow the overall segment’s growth through 2022.