|Over the last decade, the Asia Pacific region has been the fastest
growing tourism region in the world, Tourism is one of the most important
sectors in a large number of Asia Pacific countries. Increases in
economic growth, disposable income and leisure time, political stability,
and aggressive tourism campaigns, among other factors, have fueled the
significant growth of tourism. This paper reviews the growth and development
of the tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region. The future outlook
is bright for the tourism sector, and the region is expected to maintain
a high rate of growth well into the next century.
The Asia and Pacific region will be the focus of the worldwide tourism industry in the new millennium. Over the last decade, tourist arrivals and receipts rose faster than any other region in the world, almost twice the rates of industrialized countries. Between 1980 and 1995, tourist arrivals and receipts in the Asia Pacific region rose at an average annual rate of 10% and 15% respectively, higher than any region in the world (World Tourism Organization 1996a). Statistics from the World Tourism Organization (WTO) for 1996 show that tourist arrivals and receipts accounted for a 15.2% and 19.4% share of the world's total respectively, a significant increase from 1985 as shown in Tables I and 2 (WTO 1997a). The Asia Pacific region has been gaining market share at the expense of the Americas and European regions, which saw a decline in their respective shares during the same period. The WTO 1996b) projects that by the year 2010, the region will surpass the Americas to become the world's number two tourism region, with 229 million arrivals. It is an indication that the growth of tourism in the Asia Pacific region in the next decade will be nothing short of spectacular.
Mass travel, which first began in the 1950s when millions of Americans and Europeans traveled the world, has blossomed in Asia. The region is now regarded as a major generator and receiver of tourism. A wealthy new middle class of Asians are taking to the skies and joining their European and American counterparts on their pleasure, business, and adventure trips around the globe. The rapid growth of the tourism industry has been attributed to a number of factors including among others, strong economic growth, increase in disposable income and leisure time, easing of travel restrictions, successful tourist promotion, and a recognition by the host governments that tourism is a powerful engine of growth and a generator of foreign exchange earnings.
It is the purpose of this paper to provide a basic discussion of the economic importance of tourism and review the major trends that shaped the growth and development of the tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region. A comparison of the tourism industry performance will also be made between selected Asia Pacific countries, and with other regions of the world, to highlight the trends and changes. The definition of the Asia Pacific region in this paper corresponds to the definition used by the WTO which includes North-East Asia, South-East Asia, and Oceania.
Economic Importance of Tourism in Asia Pacific
Tourism is one of the most important sectors in the economies of Asia Pacific countries. Currently, tourism is the most important sector and major source of foreign exchange earnings in Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. It is ranked second in Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Philippines, and ranked third in Singapore and Indonesia. For example, in New Zealand, the tourism industry employs more than 200,000 people, with projections of a 14% annual growth till the year 2000 (Chan 1995). In Hong Kong, tourism employs 12% of the workforce and contributes about 7% to the economy (Boxall 1996). The tourism sector in Thailand supports over 1.5 million jobs and contributes 5% to the economy (Asian Business 1996). Tourism is also gaining importance in China. By the year 2000, China expects to receive 55 million visitors with foreign exchange earnings of US$14 billion, which will contribute 5% to China's economy, making tourism one of the most significant components of the national economy (Beria 1996). In Singapore, the healthy overall balance of payments is attributed to the huge surplus achieved by the tourism sector which contributes about 10% to the economy (International Monetary Fund 1996a). Despite Singapore's open economy, and its vulnerability to external shocks and import leakages, tourism has made a significant contribution to output, employment, and income.
Based on 1988 input-output tables, Khan et al. (1995) estimated that tourism contributed 11.9% to Singapore's GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 1992, while employment accounted for 13.4% of the labor force. The employment effect of a million dollars in tourist expenditures would create 25 new jobs. The results ts showed that every dollar of tourist expenditure would generate S$1.97 of output and S$1.05 in income. The income multiplier for tourism was larger when compared to Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia, while the tourism output multiplier was greater relative to other sectors of the Singapore economy.
Comparisons with previous studies (Schymyck 1983; Toh and Low 1990) showed an increase in the contribution of tourism over time, a strong indication of the significance of tourism in the Singapore economy. The estimated economic impact of tourism is also significant in South Korea. According to Lee and Kwon (1995), the total impact of tourism receipts of US$4.7 billion in 1993, generated US$11.7 of output, US$2.4 billion in income, and created 350,000 full time jobs. The secondary impacts were also found to have a considerable effect on the economy. The findings suggested that tourism should be promoted as a strategic export industry.
It is no surprise that the key to the success of tourism in the Asia Pacific region is a clear recognition by the host governments of the important role of tourism in the economic development of the country. Tourism serves as an important means to increase economic growth, raise the quality of life, create employment, and improve the overall balance of payments by helping to offset deficits in other sectors. Many Asia Pacific countries show a net surplus in their tourism balance of payment account as shown in Table 3 (WTO 1997a; IMF 1997). Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are major tourist generating countries in the region and this is reflected by the deficits in their respective travel balance of payments accounts. Mak and White (1992) attributed the travel account deficits for these high income countries to a higher allocation of disposable income to leisure travel. The relaxation of travel restrictions in Taiwan also had a significant impact on its travel account, due to the large increase in outbound travel. On the other hand, China, Thailand, and Singapore are major receivers of tourists, enjoying a huge surplus. As a percentage of exports, tourism contributes more than 13/n to the economies of Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand, again reflecting its ranking as the top export. Its contribution to the GDP is significantly greater in Singapore (10%) and Hong Kong (7%).
Almost all Asian nations are committing substantial
manpower and resources to attract more arrivals whose expenditures represent
significant contributions to national income and foreign exchange earnings.
For example, Singapore has unveiled a new tourism blueprint titled "Tourism
21" that is expected to turn the nation into a world class tourism business
center and the tourism capital of the East. Plans call for increasing
arrivals and receipts by 6.4% and 6.6% annually to 10 million and US$11.4
billion, respectively, by the year 2000 (Boey 1996). Even Indonesia and
Malaysia have raised their commitments towards
developing the tourism sector. Indonesia plans to make tourism the nation's
number one foreign exchange earner by the year 2004, when arrivals will
hit 11 million and receipts reach US$15 billion from current levels of
4.3 million and US$5.4 billion, respectively (Travel Trade Gazelle 1997).
In the current Seventh Malaysia Plan, which ends in the year 2000, a number
of strategies were formulated to turn tourism into a top revenue earner
for the country. Millions of dollars will be allocated
for tourism infrastructure in an effort to increase arrivals and
receipts to 12.5 million and US$6.3 billion, respectively, by the end of
this decade (Pacific Area Travel Association News 1996). With increasing
competition for the tourist dollar, the national tourism organizations
of New Zealand, Thailand, Australia and Hong Kong, among others, have also
allocated an increase in tourism funding to tap the emerging tourism markets
that promise new income and employment opportunities.
Tourism Growth Factors
A number of factors are responsible for the rapid growth and development of the tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region. These include the strong economic growth , increase in income, breakdown of political barriers, easing of travel restrictions, liberalization of air transport, and focused marketing campaigns. These factors are expected to accelerate the growth of tourism over the next decade.
The rapid growth of the tourism industry is a reflection of the region's booming and diversified economies. Economic growth has ranged between an average of 6% to 9% in the last decade, in contrast to 3% to 4% growth achieved by the rest of the world. Only the industrialized countries of Australia, Japan, and New Zealand show a lower rate of growth than the rest of the region. China, which has achieved double-digit growth over the last 5 years, is poised to become one of the world's largest economies and surpass Japan in the next decade. The region is expected to maintain its growth at a rate between 6% to 8% over the next decade (IMF 1996b).
Strong economic growth in Asia is attributed to a focus on market reforms, export oriented industries, stable currencies, diversification of the economy, and massive injection of foreign capital. Billions of dollars are being poured into the tourism infrastructure to accommodate a burgeoning Asian tourism industry. This has intensified trade, investment, and travel within the region and with the rest of the world. Asian governments have also sought to avoid extremes of inflation and unemployment, and are keeping budget deficits small or running surpluses. It is no wonder that the region has attracted much attention from the rest of the world regarding its success. The opening up of Indochina, Myanmar, and China to tourism, and given the increasing number of companies setting u p bases and new businesses in the region the volume of business travel will rise. This will provide ample marketing opportunities for travel-related businesses.
Increase in Income and Leisure Time
As a result of strong economic growth, disposable incomes have soared in Asian countries and along with it, the propensity to travel. Leisure consciousness has been enhanced with travel no longer seen as a luxury. In fact, it is now seen as an affordable commodity to be enjoyed by all who choose to engage in a variety of leisurely pursuits. Some Asians may see travel as a status symbol, while others see it as relief from the pressures of work. The introduction of a 5-day workweek in China will provide Chinese residents with more leisure time that will likely be devoted to travel. A number of Asian countries have recorded significant growth in real per capita income over the last Syears with Singapore (7.3%), Thailand (6.8%), China (10.3%), 5. Korea (6.7%), and Indonesia (7.1%) showing the highest growth (IMF 1997). Rising incomes have created a middle class of sophisticated and affluent Asians who are better educated, have more disposable income, and who appreciate the value of leisure. Research by Mak and White (1992) has shown travel propensity and tourism spending to be positively correlated a ed with per capita income among the major Asia Pacific countries. This means that increases in income levels will enable a greater proportion of Asians to travel overseas. Unlike previous generations, this generation of primarily young travelers are intent on enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Although price conscious, they still demand high qualify products. Since Asians are more likely to travel in groups and families, more travel products and services, such as tour packages that incorporate activities, must be designed to cater to their needs. This may include travel to exotic places, soft-adventure travel, cruises, and sports related tours, among others. Disposable incomes will continue to rise, and thus fuel the demand for leisure travel. The trend among Asia Pacific countries is towards more frequent regional holidays to various destinations and resorts within the region.
Political Stability/Breakdown of Political Barriers
In recent years, the Asia Pacific region has become politically more stable than it has ever been, especially in the Philippines, where tourism was adversely affected by terrorism, civil strife, and natural disasters in the last decade. However, the political, social and economic reforms of the current government have reversed the fortunes of the tourism industry. Tourism investments in the Philippines over the last 3 years were estimated at U5$6.27 billion, with a large portion of the funds allocated towards resort development. To encourage more investment, the Philippines Department of Tourism is urging financial institutions to provide funding to investors involved in tourism-related projects (Shaw 1997). Investors are showing confidence not only in the Philippines but also in Vietnam, Indonesia, and China. These nations, which were off-limits to foreigners at one time, are witnessing rapid hotel and resort developments. Even areas which were closed or long considered inaccessible in parts of China and Indonesia are now open to tourism. The opening of borders to both inbound and outbound travel, and the breakdown of political barriers, will provide tourists with opportunities to pursue their leisure interests. For example, South Korea's normalization of relations with China also is expected to boost arrivals from Seoul to major cities in China when non-stop air traffic routes are inaugurated.
Easing of Travel Restrictions
Historically, the demand for and freedom to travel increases when travel restrictions are lifted or eliminated. With strong demand for travel, a number of Asia Pacific countries have lifted some travel restrictions. The lifting of restrictions in South Korea and Taiwan in the late 1980s, for example, contributed to a surge in the demand for outbound travel. More recently, the Taiwanese government's open door policy and the institution of a 5-day
|Source: World Tourism Organization, 1997
* preliminary data
visa-free entry program to 15 countries also helped to increase arrivals to Taiwan by 10% in 1995 over the previous year (Wieman 1996a). Similarly, the Malaysian government's decision to allow tourists a 3-day visa-free stay in Malaysia, and Indonesia's granting of unilateral visa-free entry are steps in the right direction The general trend is towards a reduction of travel barriers to promote tourism.
Liberalization of Air Transport
Traditionally, Asian countries have safeguarded their national flag carriers to protect them from foreign competition. However, the situation is changing as governments realize that such restrictive policies are counterproductive to tourism. Singapore and Taiwan have already signed open skies agreements with the United States and similar agreements are expected between the U.S. and Malaysia, S. Korea and New Zealand (Dhaliwal 1997). Liberalization of air transport will only serve to enhance trade and tourism growth in the region. It will to lead to more multilateral open skies agreements between countries.
In other parts of the region, Thailand and Australia are showing more tourism growth as a result of liberalized internal aviation policies. Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea have followed suit with similar aviation policies. Indonesia's limited open skies policy invites foreign airlines to fly to new international destinations and participate in code sharing agreements with Indonesian airlines. As a result of liberalized air policies in the Philippines, new international gateways have emerged, and more inter-island services initiated. This will save travel time, increase convenience, and enable the promotion of more resorts in the islands. Liberalization of aviation policies have also sparked the creation of new carriers and subsidiaries of major carriers such as Silkair (Singapore), Dragonair (Hong Kong), and Sempati (Indonesia). These airlines have launched new routes to secondary destinations, especially in China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, to serve the emerging and growing tourism market in secondary cities.
Technological developments have significantly impacted the travel industry in the Asia Pacific region and will continue to do so over the next decade. Developments in large and more fuel efficient aircraft such as the Boeing 777, Boeing 747, and Airbus A340 have lowered operating costs, increased airline seat capacity, and raised the comfort and safety of air travel. These aircraft facilitate travel over longer distances and fly non-stop over trans-Atlantic and Pacific routes. Lower operating costs, coupled with cheaper airfares, have reduced the cost of travel, thereby making air travel the dominant mode of travel in the region. Most of the new wide bodied jets built over the next decade will be delivered to Asia Pacific airlines to meet their increasing demand for capacity.
Technological developments are also impacting the way in which the product
is delivered to the customer. Ticketless travel will find its way into
the major hubs in Asia this year. Singapore Airlines
will introduce ticketless travel on selected regional routes while Malaysian
Airlines will introduce it on domestic routes. Air New Zealand and Ansett
Australia are also planning ticketless travel by the end of this year.
Ticketless travel will speed up customer service, provide convenience,
improve efficiency, and decrease distribution costs
Ticketless travel can save airlines up to 30% of their distribution costs if it is implemented and standardized successfully (Klyne 1997). With the availability of computer-based interactive information and product buying systems, tourists can view the facilities and destinations on the Internet, video, or CD-ROM and make
direct purchases. The National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) of the Asia Pacific countries have also created custom-made destination promotion pages on the World Wide Web in order to reach a global audience. New technological developments and production efficiencies will continue to create more leisure time that will be devoted to travel.
Focused Marketing and Themed Campaigns
In light of the increasingly competitive situation in the Asia Pacific region, traditional methods of marketing a destination to the masses has yielded to more focused marketing segmentation strategies and themed campaigns.
Thailand started the trend towards international and nationwide events when it launched "Visit Thailand Year 1987" to celebrate the Thai King's 60th birthday. The success of the campaign was reflected in visitor arrival figures, which jumped 24% in 1987 (Corben l996). Since then, the success of nationwide campaigns have been emulated all across Asia. In 1997, China will organize a second "Visit China Year 1997" to complement its recovery of sovereignty of Hong Kong. The theme for the campaign is" Visit China - A Completely New Experience" with major events planned throughout the country. These marketing campaigns are designed to enhance the destination image by focusing on the rich cultural, historical, and natural heritage of the country. Through creative and innovative p roduct differentiation strategies, each country has created a diverse destination product with a unique guest appeal that will enrich the visitor experience, provide quality, and maximize the value of the visitor's leisure time. Increased emphasis will be placed on niche marketing, whereby specific market segments are identified through visitor profile studies and then targeted by matching the destination product to appeal to the segment. For example, in 1995, the Korea National Tourist Corporation used its "Discover Korea: A Different Asia" campaign to emphasize the differences that South Korea had to offer over other Asian countries; its unique traditional culture, delicious cuisine, exceptional shopping, and four distinct seasons.
For the Japanese market, the theme was "Korea: The Nearest Country" capitalizing on its proximity to Japan. The success of the campaign was reflected in tourism receipts which jumped 46.6% over 1994 (Price 1995). Capitalizing on this trend, Malaysia has developed a new "Malaysia: Fascinating Destinations" theme to showcase eight different destinations within the country, each with its own attraction and appeal. The campaign is aimed at the North American, European, East Asian, and Australian markets. To complement existing promotional campaigns, some Asian countries have entered into joint marketing ventures and cooperative endeavors with neighboring countries and other NTOs. For example, Singapore and Indonesia jointly promote Bintan Island in Indonesia, with plans for more initiatives covering other Indonesian islands. Singapore and Indonesia have also identified seven target markets in the U.S., Europe, and Asia in which both countries will spend US$800,000 over the next 2 years to promote both destinations (Business Times 1996). NTOs have also forged alliances with the private sector to promote destinations. For example, by setting up an alliance with major travel agencies in South Korea, the New Zealand Tourism Board was able to design and promote New Zealand tour packages aimed at the mature traveler from S. Korea. Palmer and Bejou (1995) noted that alliances between the private and p ublic sectors will attract more visitors that can benefit both sectors. The value of forming alliances has also been recognized in tourism marketing (Gunn 1988; Stevens 1988). Joint promotions and marketing with members of ASEANTA (Association of South East Asian Nations Tourism Organization) and travel missions led by PATA (Pacific Area Travel Association) have also been successful. Both organizations have been instrumental in promoting the travel interests of members through trade shows, seminars, education and training, research, and destination marketing and sales promotion. For example, the collaborative efforts of ASEANTA paid off during" Visit ASEAN Year 1992," when visitor arrivals increased 9.5% to a record 21.86 million (WTO 1996a).
Trends in the Tourism Industry
Trends in Arrivals and Receipts
Economic growth, increasing competition, easing of travel restrictions, and aggressive promotion strategies adopted by the NTOs contributed to the growth in arrivals in 1996. Most of the Asia Pacific countries saw an increase in arrivals (Table 4). Japan, which experienced a drop in arrivals in 1995 due to its lack of appeal, increasing cost, and strong currency, rebounded in 1996 with a 22% growth in arrivals. South Korea failed to meet its target of 4 million arrivals. The decline in arrivals were attributed to rising costs of vacationing in the country. Japan, which is S. Korea's largest market, accounting for over 40% of all visitors, declined 8.4% to 1.52 million visitors. Many Japanese visitors also chose to visit Hong Kong before the hand over to China. Malaysia
experienced a decline in arrivals, primarily from its Asian markets, due to health-related concerns of a cholera outbreak. Political stability in the Philippines, easing of restrictions in China, concerns over the hangover of Hong Kong to China, and improving economic conditions in Australia and Indonesia, led to double-digit growth rates in arrivals in these countries.
Paralleling the growth in arrivals, tourism receipts also showed significant growth for most of the Asia Pacific countries, especially for Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, which exceeded 20%. Higher receipts were also recorded for Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. On the other hand, South Korea and Singapore saw a decline in receipts, due to increasing cost concerns. The strong Singapore currency, a declining length of stay, and growing competition from regional destinations contributed to the decline. Tourism receipts for Asia Pacific countries are expected to grow at a faster rate than arrivals, due to rising affluence and increased spending by visitors.
Trends in International Tourism in Selected Asia Pacific Countries, 1996
|Country||Arrivals* 1996 (000)||Arrivals 1995 (000)||% Change 96/95||Receipts* 1996 (US$mil.)||Receipts 1995 (US$mil.)||% Change 96/95|
**includes Singaporeans traveling by road to Malaysia
Trends in Outbound Travel
In 1996, the Asia Pacific region surpassed North America for the first time in generating visitors. Outbound travel grew 8% to record 94 million international visitors, while North Americans made 92 million trips abroad. The Asia Pacific region received 74% of the visitors generated, followed by Europe (14%), and the Americas (10%). It is a dramatic increase from the 69% share recorded in 1985 (WTO 1997b). Falling airfares, high cost of domestic travel in some countries, rising affluence, increase in business travel, and more competitive packages, contributed to increasing number of Asians traveling overseas to regional destinations (Mak and White, 1992). Intraregional travel, which is characterized by more frequent short-haul trips, has been growing at a higher rate than long-haul travel. Between 1985 and 1995, intraregional travel grew at an average annual rate of 12%, compared to 10% for long-haul travel (WTO 19971,). Japan by far, is still the largest tourist generating market in the region, but the emerging markets of China, S. Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand, are generating most of the region's new international travelers.
The increase in demand for travel has created new marketing opportunities in ecotourism, adventure travel, dive travel, cruises, golf tours, arts and entertainment, and meetings and incentives, among others. Tourism marketers must focus on attracting these high yield markets by differentiating their products and customizing them to individualized needs. Since the Asia Pacific region covers a great diversity of cultures, lifestyles and preferences, more innovative and creative marketing strategies have to be designed for each source market of visitors. The increasing sophistication the Asian visitors also requires travel products to offer quality, comfort, convenience, relaxation, independence, and unique learning experiences that maximize the value of their leisure time.
The Asia Pacific region will still maintain its status as the fastest
growing region in the world and most forecasts point to the region's healthy
long-term prospects. The WTO's (1996b) forecast reveals the
region emerging as the world's number two region behind Europe in 2010
with 229 million international arrivals, growing at an annual rate of 7.6%.
The rapid growth of tourism will create new marketing opportunities in
the cruise line industry,
timesharing, meetings and incentives, ecotourism, and dive travel. Japan will continue to be the principal visitor generating market, while China has the potential to be the next major visitor generating market. Major events that will boost the status of the region include the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia in 1998, the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and soccer's World Cup in Korea and Japan in 2002. Forecasts by the World Travel and Tourism Council (1995) for the Asia Pacific region reveal that by the year 2005, travel and tourism will generate US$1.9 trillion in gross output, and account for 11.6% of GDP. Further, the industry will create an additional 105 million new and indirect jobs. To support this growth, US$553 billion in capital investments will be needed for the infrastructure and superstructure.
Strong economic growth will continue to increase disposable incomes and stimulate the desire to travel. This will increase the demand for air travel which is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8.6% till 2000 and 7.1% from 2000 to 2010. By 2010, the Asia Pacific region will control half of the world's total passenger traffic. Japan will dominate the traffic with over 90 million passengers, followed by Hong Kong, China, and Singapore. The fastest growing travel markets by 2000 will be Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Thailand (Air Transport Action Group 1995). To accommodate the demand for air travel, airlines in the region will take delivery of more than US$100 billion worth of aircraft. As of March 1996, Asia Pacific airlines had firm orders and options for a total of 575 aircraft (Muqbil 1996). New airports are opening in Hong Kong, Korea, and Malaysia, while expansions in Singapore and Indonesia will help to alleviate capacity and congestion problems. Billions of dollars will be spent in capital investments to meet the increasing demands of a burgeoning tourism and hotel industry. Joint promotions and alliances between NTOs and the private sector, will create a stronger collective tourism product that will increase arrivals and enhance tourism growth.
Finally, the recent devaluation of the regional currencies will also have major implications for the tourism industry in the region. Inbound travel will increase as visitors will be attracted by the higher purchasing power in countries where currencies have been devalued. More specifically, visitor expenditures will increase as a result of a higher length of stay and attractive prices. In the short term, devaluation may have some negative impact on outbound travel and operating costs, but the long-term benefits will outweigh the costs.
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