South Asia leads growth in tourist arrivals in Asia Pacific, UNWTO study says

As international tourism skyrocketed worldwide, South Asia led growth amongst all Asia Pacific regions in international tourist arrivals during the first four months of the year, a new study by World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has revealed.

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, destinations worldwide received 369 million international tourists (overnight visitors) from January to April, 21 million more (six percent growth) than in the same months of 2016.

The January-April period usually represents some 28 percent of the yearly total and covers the winter season of the Northern Hemisphere and the summer season of the Southern Hemisphere, as well as the Chinese New Year and Easter holidays, amongst others.

Regional Results

International arrivals in Europe (up six percent) rebounded in January-April after mixed results last year, as confidence returned to some destinations that were impacted by security incidents, while others continued to grow strongly. Results improved particularly in Southern Mediterranean Europe (up nine percent as compared to a one percent improvement in 2016) and Western Europe (up four percent as opposed to stagnant growth in 2016). Northern Europe (up nine percent) continued to record strong growth, while Central and Eastern Europe recorded four percent more international arrivals, in line with results of last year.

In Asia and the Pacific, international arrivals were up six percent through April, with sound results across all four sub-regions. South Asia (up 14 percent) led growth, followed by Oceania (up seven percent), South-East Asia (up six percent) and North-East Asia (up five percent).

International arrivals in the Americas were up four percent with strong results in South America and Central America (both up by seven percent), while arrivals in North America grew by three percent and in the Caribbean by two percent.

Limited data available for Africa points to an eight increase in international arrivals, with North Africa (up 18 percent) recovering strongly. International arrivals in the Middle East rebounded by an estimated 10 percent following a four percent decline in 2016.

Positive prospects for May-August

The current strong momentum is reflected in the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts confidence index, based on evaluations and prospects of worldwide experts surveyed every four months since 2003. Experts evaluated tourism performance in the first four months of 2017 with the highest score in 12 years, clearly exceeding their already positive expectations from the start of the period. Responses to the survey were strongest from Europe, in line with the rebound in arrivals.

Experts also show strong confidence in the current May-August period, as their prospects are the most optimistic in a decade, also driven by upbeat expectations in Europe. The May-August period includes the peak tourism season in most of the world’s major tourism destinations and source markets.

Where does Maldives stand?

According to the latest figures published by the Maldives tourism ministry, total arrivals for the first five months of the year increased by 5.8 percent to reach 572,318 compared to the 540,887 in the same period of last year.

Europe, the largest regional source market which has been recovering after a year of falling growth, posted a significant increase of 10.4 percent to reach 290,968 from January to May compared to the 263,573 in the same period of last year. The Russian market too has been recovering, as Russian visitors to the Maldives increased by 40.7 percent in the period from January to May to reach 27,364 compared to the 19,447 in the first five months of last year.

Asia, which has recently become a major emerging source market, continued its growth with arrivals from the region increasing by 0.2  percent. India, Maldives’ closest neighbour, observed a growth of 20.3 percent, while South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand also posted significant gains; 34.2 percent, 23.4 percent and 22.5 percent respectively.

However, worries concerning the Chinese market, which still remains the single biggest source market despite falling numbers for consecutive months, further worsened in the first five months of the year, as arrivals dropped by 9.1 percent to 117,335 from 129,111 in January to May 2016.

As arrivals from China drop steadily, the Maldives has recently announced plans to step up marketing in China in order to increase the number of Chinese tourists to one million per year.

After years of double-digit growth in tourism, the Maldives has over the recent years observed a slowdown in growth despite double digit growth last month. Tourist arrivals have crossed the one million milestone and is on course to reach 1.5 million by the end of this year, but the country has been struggling to create demand amidst a significant increase in bed capacity.

However, the latest figures are a welcome sign for the Maldives tourism industry, which is the main economic activity in the island nation, as summer period has traditionally been considered the low season. To attract more travellers from May to September, resorts in the Maldives have announced special offers with hefty discounts and a host of other benefits.

Cover photo: VNews

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