The year-on-year tourist arrivals to Asia and the Pacific increased by five per cent in the first quarter of this year, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) preliminary figures for international visitor arrivals into Asia and the Pacific for the first quarter of 2011 released on Thursday.
The sharp fall in arrivals to Japan following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, coupled with the decline in arrivals from the Middle East and North Africa, contributed to the subdued three per cent growth seen for the whole region in March, it said.
International visitor arrivals to South Asia grew by ten per cent in March and 13 per cent in the first quarter. All the leading destinations in the subcontinent – India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – reported double-digit growth for the quarter.
Similarly, Southeast Asia arrivals increased by 10 per cent also had a strong quarter after recording growth of 10 per cent in arrivals for the month of March too. "The majority of the destinations in the sub-region reported strong positive results, particularly Myanmar (+30 per cent), Cambodia (+18 per cent) and Thailand (+14 per cent)," the report said.
However, Northeast Asia registered a sharply slower growth of three per cent for the quarter, depressed by the subdued one per cent growth in arrivals for the month of March. The devastating earthquake and tsunami hurt Japan’s inbound and outbound travel flows and neighbouring destinations including China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and South Korea recorded subsequent declines in Japanese visitors for the quarter.
International arrivals to the Pacific, hurt by a weak result in March -- a drop by three per cent -- still managed to record growth of three per cent in the first quarter 2011, according to the figures.
Increases in arrivals to the leading Pacific destinations of Australia and New Zealand, were flat and negative respectively. However, this was somewhat offset by positive growth recorded by each of Kiribati, Palau, Hawaii and New Caledonia.
"After recovering strongly from recession-hit 2008-09, the travel and tourism industry in Asia Pacific has once again been confronted with many challenges in the first quarter of the year," Bill Calderwood, Interim CEO of PATA, said, adding tht the challenges included rising oil prices, political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and natural disasters in Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
PATA believes that, at five per cent, Asia Pacific’s inbound growth for the first quarter of the year was a good result given the circumstances. Growth was supported by the key origin markets of China, South Korea and India as well as by the strong intra-regional flows in the Southeast Asia sub-region. The long-haul origin markets performed well too, with arrivals from Europe growing by a relatively healthy six per cent for the first quarter. However, results were mixed for the leading European origin markets – the Russian Federation (up by 25 per cent), France (up by nine per cent), the UK (drop by five per cent) and Germany (drop by one per cent). Arrivals from the US grew by five per cent, while overall arrivals from the Americas increased by about seven per cent.
"It is now over two months since the earthquake and tsunami hit the coast of Tohoku region in Japan and the situation appears to be slowly returning to normal. Thankfully, many countries have eased travel restrictions. The larger part of Japan remains physically unaffected by the disaster,” he said.