SINGAPORE – Asia’s tourism industry has maintained resilient growth amidst the global slowdown.
The Asia Pacific region is the world’s fastest growing tourism market with an 8 per cent growth in tourist arrivals in the first half of 2012.
This, against the 5 per cent growth in the number of international tourists worldwide to 467 million, according to the UN World Tourism Organization (UN WTO).
And industry experts are converging in Singapore this week to explore the region’s potential.
Asia now accounts 40 per cent of global tourism spend, according to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates travel and tourism’s direct contribution to GDP within the Asia Pacific region at about US$553.7 billion.
The UN WTO estimates the Asian tourism is expected to grow between 4 and 6 per cent – higher than the 3 to 4 per cent global average.
ITB Asia’s executive director, Nino Gruttke, said: “If you combine growth with market size, it’s a highly, highly attractive market. Asia in itself is growing so fast and it’s becoming more and more independent. And I think it’s the independency that a lot of players in this region are putting their money on.”
The BCG estimates the middle class in China and India to reach one billion by 2020. It said consumers in the two countries are expected to spend a combined total of US$64 trillion on goods and services between 2010 and 2020.
Apart from a large population base and rising middle class, nascent industries are also waiting to be explored.
Singapore Tourism Board’s assistant chief executive, Neeta Lachmandas, said: “This is a very nascent industry for Asia, and in that are opportunities for Asia as well. We have a huge concentration of islands and yet cruising in this part of the world is obviously not as mature as say, in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean. So we think that more and more cruise lines are starting to see the opportunities in Asia and obviously because Asia is also becoming a big source market for cruise travel.”
The official opening of the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore (MBCCS) next week also marks a milestone with Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises and Seabourn Cruises making their homeport and maiden calls to Singapore.
Asia’s greying population is also a market to watch.
Gruttke said: “That will become a huge topic in the future. If you think about the demographic shift and the change that we pretty much see in Europe and America already, if companies can learn from what has happened in those two markets, they will be set for the next decade in this area of the world.”
Questex Hospitality + Travel’s vice president for Global Events, Marilyn Mchugh, said: “What we try to do is help people with that path, on how to get the financing and how to develop in different parts of the world and what are the governing aspects that you have to be focused on and cognizant of. It’s not difficult, you just have to be tenacious. You just really have to want to do this and work hard at getting there.
Now on its third year, TravelRave 2012 takes place in Singapore this week to help industry players exchange information about Asia.