Revised mid-year data from the Pacific Asia Travel Association projects a hard year ahead for 2021, with recovery occurring in 2022.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association states in the Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2021-2023 report that with the extreme volatility in the travel and tourism sector brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, predicting the course of any form of recovery has never been as important as it is today.

Association Chief Executive Liz Ortiguera says that across all 39 Asia-Pacific destinations, the difference in the estimated values used in the original forecasts and those with the most recently released official arrival data was a positive gain of 3.8% between the two. 

From an initial forecast of 121.8 million international visitor arrivals in 2020 in the original series, Ortiguera says this has been updated to 126.5m.

The contraction rates and loss of arrivals still remain severe, however, with an overall reduction between 2019 and 2020 of more than 577 million foreign arrivals. Those losses, Ortiguera says, are forecast to continue throughout 2021 for most sub-regions.

The exception is Asia, which Ortiguera predicted is to have a positive annual growth of almost 51% year-over-year.

“The good news, however, is that 2022 looks to be promising, with annual increases across the board, ranging from gains of 105% to 320% under the mild scenario, to between 8% and 75% even under the severe scenario,” said Ortiguera. “It is important not to be seduced by such large annual percentage increases however, as despite those gains, the absolute volume of arrivals remains well below the 2019 benchmark for international visitor arrivals, even out to 2023 under some scenarios.”

Ortiguera says the expected results for 2021 average just 23% of the 2019 volume at best. During 2022, that is expected to increase to between 27% and 61% depending on the scenario, reaching between 51% and 99% by 2023, again, depending on the prevailing scenario at that time.

The surge in annual arrivals between 2020 and 2021 into Asia under the mild scenario is expected to come from mostly Northeast Asian source markets, with the Russian Federation also adding a welcome boost in numbers. 

Collectively, this top five source market cluster is expected to add an additional 29 million international visitor arrivals into Asia between 2020 and 2021, representing some 80% of the predicted increase into the region over that period.

Along with the volume increases, there are likely to be some significant annual percentage growth gains into Asia between 2020 and 2021. 

“Expectations for a return to the past should be shelved and more attention paid to those source and destination markets best preparing to drive recovery within Asia Pacific,” said Ortiguera.”Travel recovery is being driven by a complex range of factors from the varying market policies regarding virus control and containment to local citizens’ sentiments on vaccine take-up. Success will come to those that efficiently implement science-based best practices to control the pandemic in their home markets to restore both source market government and consumer confidence. In the travel industry, a ‘duty of care’-based approach in delivering services and products will support a more sustainable recovery.”

She added, “On a positive note, our forecast projects a pent-up demand for travel experiences in the Asia Pacific region. Flexibility in marketing and delivering new experiences to engage travellers as corridors open up will be critical.”

Photo: Liz Ortiguera, CEO of Pacific Asia Travel Association.

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