China the Major Contributor to “Asian Tourism Miracle”

The continuous growth of Chinese outbound travel is an asset for all of Asia, the continent being well-placed to reap the benefits of China’s continuous travel boom. In addition, increased air travel competition, good value for money in services, easier visa entry facilities to an increasing number of Asian countries and quickly expanding transportation infrastructures are also stimulating travel demand in the region.

Overall, there is an Asian tourism miracle. Last year, according to preliminary data from the UNWTO, Asia and the Pacific welcomed together 323.7 million foreign travellers, representing a growth of 5.8% over 2016. Growth was particularly strong in South Asia, up by 10.4%, and Southeast Asia, up by 8.3%. Asia represented consequently 24.5% of all international arrivals. This is a market share jump of eight points in less than a decade. Back in 2000, the Asia Pacific region was registering 110.4 million international arrivals, a share of 16.23%; in 2010, ASPAC market share in world tourism had already grown to 21.87%, equivalent to 208.2 million travellers. In absolute numbers, in only 17 years, total arrivals to the continent grew threefold.

Within Asia, Northeast Asia (China-Japan-Korea) welcomed the largest number of travellers (159.3 million), followed by Southeast Asia with 120.1 million and South Asia with 27.7 million. The Pacific area welcomed 16.6 million and remains dominated by Australia, the sub-region’s largest destination. Looking specifically at China, last year was a new record year for Chinese travelling overseas. According to a report by top Chinese Travel Services provider Ctrip in cooperation with the China Tourism Academy, Chinese travellers generated 130.5 million trips outside their country, a 7% jump over the previous year (122 million travels in 2016). Looking in detail at statistics in many Asian countries, China is often now the number 1 inbound market. This is for example the case in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Maldives, Indonesia and North Korea. Within a year or two, Chinese travellers will also be the largest inbound market for the Philippines and Lao PDR. Thailand receives some 10 million Chinese travellers while Japan welcomed last year some 7.5 million of their neighbours.

There are more factors which explain Asia’s enduring success. Air connectivity is one of them. The arrival of new more fuelefficient aircraft makes new air routes possible. Today, destinations such as Hangzhou or Xian in China, Penang in Malaysia, Chiang Mai and Phuket in Thailand, Danang in Vietnam or Okinawa in Japan are served by overseas carriers while low cost carriers are increasingly linking secondary destinations inside the region. Simplified formalities for visas are also playing a huge role by stimulating travel. India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam are currently seeing tourist arrivals jump due to the ease of entering their respective countries.