Tourism growth prospects for Asia Pacific “fragile and uneven” to 2023, says PATA

MOODIE DAVITT REPORT by Dermot Davitt dermot@moodiedavittreport.com Source: ©The Moodie Davitt Report 24 January 2021

ASIA PACIFIC. The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has released updated visitor forecasts for the period 2021 to 2023, and said that the outlook for growth remains “fragile and uneven”.

PATA has developed three scenarios – mild, medium and severe – for 39 destinations across the regional tourism business to 2023.

Under a mild scenario, the Asia Pacific region in 2023 is likely to still have around -4% fewer arrivals compared to 2019. The medium scenario suggests that foreign visitor numbers in 2023 could be only three-quarters of the 2019 volume, while under the severe scenario, that proportion is predicted to reach less than half of the 2019 volume of international arrivals.

How recovery might take shape: International Visitor Arrivals (IVAs) and prospects under each of three scenarios; click to enlarge (Source all charts: PATA)

The results are uneven for the major destination regions, added PATA. The Americas for example, after reaching a total of 45.36 million foreign arrivals in 2020 into the four destinations covered by this region, is unlikely to see any annual increase in IVAs (International Visitor Arrivals) until 2022.

The calendar year 2021 in particular, is projected to be another difficult year for the Americas. A further annual decline in foreign arrival numbers is expected, with annual losses ranging from 3.59 million to as much as almost 23.76 million, depending upon the scenario conditions at the time.

“Perhaps the future will depend more on length of stay and visitor satisfaction, than on a generic and simple headcount of arrivals. Metrics that track such indicators will possibly become a new standard for determining tourism potential and performance in what is likely to continue being a volatile world.”

IVAs into and across Asia on the other hand, are expected to show an increase in 2021 over the 70.64 million received in 2020, but only under the mild scenario. From 2022 onwards, however, annual increases are forecast to gradually improve in volume under each of the three scenarios.

The possible scenarios by sub-region; click to enlarge


The Pacific is expected to be in a similar position as the Americas in 2021, with IVAs falling from the 5.85 million received in 2020 under each of the three scenarios. While that decrease may be relatively minor under the mild scenario, said PATA, it could still represent a contraction of almost five million IVAs under the severe scenario.

Calendar years 2022 and 2023 however, show some return to annual growth under each of the scenarios.

The three main visitor generating regions of Asia, the Americas and Europe are likely to remain, in terms of the additional volume of IVAs delivered into and across Asia Pacific between 2020 and 2023, differing only in their respective relative strengths.

PATA noted that as each scenario becomes more volatile, the relative proportion of IVA growth out of Asia between 2020 and 2023 rises. For Asia, that region itself generates the bulk of the additional IVAs into the region between 2020 and 2023, with its relative share of additional arrivals rising from around 84% under the mild scenario to more than 87% under the severe scenario (even though volumes are lower).
Additional IVAs into the Pacific are likely to be sourced largely out of Asia and the Americas, with those two source regions combined, expected to account for over 70% of the increase in IVAs into this region between 2020 and 2023, under each of the scenarios.

PATA CEO Dr Mario Hardy said: “While growth in international visitor arrivals into and across Asia Pacific remains difficult in 2021, there are promising signs for 2022 and 2023. A return to near pre-COVID-19 levels of arrivals, while possible by 2023, appears now to be feasible, at least if conditions as they are now, abate quickly and permanently. Much, however, will depend on events during this present northern winter and the arrival and management of the more traditional flu season.”

He added: “Given the speed with which conditions can change, the PATA forecast report this year does not have the same destination-specific detail as previously published in the past, but rather focuses on regions and sub-regions. They are however more flexible as they will be updated twice over the coming 12 months, to factor in developments, as and when they occur.”

In conclusion, Dr Hardy said: “Domestic travel will in many cases, fill some of the void left by the loss of foreign arrivals and that as much care and attention to those travellers need to be given as to those from overseas. Furthermore, for both types of visitor, perhaps the future will depend more on length of stay and visitor satisfaction, than on a generic and simple headcount of arrivals. Metrics that track such indicators will possibly become a new standard for determining tourism potential and performance in what is likely to continue being a volatile world.”

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