News Analysis Tourism

PATA’s perturbing projection

While projected visitor arrivals for Southeast Asia remain on a steep upward trajectory for the remainder of this year and up through 2018 when it will score a 17%+ rise in international visitor-arrivals growth – receiving a forecasted 173 million travellers – the Philippines has been shown to be on a flat line and dipping with arrivals just eking up by a couple of hundred thousand annually.

More concerning is that in Asean (ex-Brunei), the Philippines could have the lowest number of arrivals with the exception of Myanmar in the next two years. With an estimated 5.5 million visitor total in 2018, it could trail Cambodia, 8.2 million and Laos, 7.2 million. These were the findings of research carried out by PATA, the Pacific Asia Travel Association, which disclose the likely direction for international arrivals to countries in the region from 2012 to 2018.

And while PATA’s projections will have some margin of error – though likely quite small, given its expertise in this field – based on current recorded figures, the general trend-picture which they portray is worrying.

Vietnam, for example, another relative newcomer to the tourism scene – the tourist industry there only really began getting off the ground at the start of the millennium – has already outpaced the Philippines: 7,943,651 in 2015 against the Philippines record 5,360,682. Furthermore, in 2018, if PATA’s figures are right, Vietnam will welcome 10.1 million visitors. That’s just 81,300 visitors shy of the total Philippine tourism intake for 2013 and 233,368 short of all arrivals in 2014.


And this year already, the pattern for the Philippines is looking on the somber side with 2.23 million arrivals recorded for the period January to end May, compared to 2.82 million for the first four months of 2015.

The bulk of PATA’s total of 173 million international arrivals to Southeast Asia in 2018 is taken up by Thailand which will receive 79.6 million of them. Its annual growth rate will have hit 35% that year – sufficient to boost the smaller growth rates elsewhere in the region. The next largest contributor is Malaysia with 30.7 million arrivals, though its growth rate in 2018 is just 3%.


The other tourists markets covered by the research are Singapore with 18.7 international arrivals and a 4% growth rate in 2018, and Indonesia, 10.7 million and 6% growth. Myanmar, meanwhile, from PATA’s data, will see 19% growth in 2018 and 1.9 million arrivals.

PATA has taken a lead role in the development of travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific since the association’s founding in 1951. Among its members are 97 governments, 21 international airlines, and 63 educational institutions. Moreover, its databases and on-the-ground expertise in this region are second to none. Given PATA’s credentials, these findings should be taken seriously. But one thing they tell us immediately is that, going forward, the competition for international tourists among Asean states is going to be much tougher than it was in the past.

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