Southeast Asia showing positive trends for its travel and tourism industry
With most countries in Asia, especially within Southeast Asia, now resuming leisure travel, travellers are eager to return to the largest continent in the world. Offering adventure-seekers a well-balanced mix of culture and history, scenic beauty and natural wonders, theme parks and attractions, plus shopping and food experiences—the region is fast becoming a go-to destination for many tourists from around the world.
Many countries in Southeast Asia have significantly reduced or entirely removed COVID-19 protocols and quarantines placed upon travellers, making it an accessible destination once again. Unlike Europe or North America, which had scrapped all COVID-19 protocols much earlier, Southeast Asia remained somewhat cautious to ensure the pandemic was well-managed within the region before it opened its doors to leisure travellers.
As a region, Southeast Asia is heavily reliant on tourism. The region’s economy was seriously affected by COVID-19 and the border closures for more than two years. In 2021, the region was estimated to have suffered a loss of 8.4% of its gross domestic product (GDP), with an 82% loss in inbound tourist expenditure. Millions of those in the hospitality and tourism industry also lost their jobs, resulting in significant loss of income.
However, with the easing of border restrictions in Southeast Asia in 2022, experts are optimistic that the APAC region will be the first to recover by 2023. It is estimated that the global travel industry will see the addition of over 126 million jobs in the next decade. The APAC region, including Southeast Asia, will take the major share of the pie, with almost 65% of the travel and tourism jobs to be found in this region.
According to a study on international flights from the United States, countries in Asia and Southeast Asia have dominated the Top 10 Trending International Flight Destinations, with eight destinations, including Singapore, Bangkok, Manila and Saigon. According to Google’s internal data, 40% of the US and Canada’s inbound tourism travellers had visited the Philippines and Vietnam. The region has seen the highest surge in demand compared to all others, with a growth of 8%.
Similarly, Britain has also seen a similar trend in destination searches, with countries such as Bangkok, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore making the top five most searched destinations by British travellers.
In a recent GMO Research travel survey of 3,328 respondents across 10 countries, Asian destinations were highest ranked by travellers planning on visiting in the near future. Japan is topping the list, with 53.5% of the respondents indicating that they plan to visit the country soon. South Korea ranked second on the list, with 40.8% listing it as their preferred destination. Taiwan (32.4%), Singapore (33.1%) and Thailand (32.9%) rounded up the top five preferred destinations, followed by countries in Australasia and Europe (Chart 1).
Of those planning to visit Singapore, 38.6% indicated that they plan to travel to the island state in 2023, with 15.3% indicating pushing their travel plans to 2024 (Chart 2).
Southeast Asia continues to be an attractive destination for many international travellers as it is relatively cheaper to visit compared to European countries, and the safety level in many countries makes it convenient for travellers, especially solo or female tourists. Southeast Asia also offers a great escape from the harsh winters around the world, especially during the holiday seasons, with its mainly tropical weather.
While it is yet to be seen how the COVID-19 situation progresses next year, especially with the recent surge in Chinese cases, Southeast Asia looks poised to see a solid international and domestic travel and tourism recovery.