WORLD ROUTES: Playing with Numbers in Asia-Pacific

Accommodating the tourism and business potential of Asia-Pacific may be a challenge but it’s a nice problem to have.

Tourist Board marketing strategy in the Asia-Pacific region is changing, according to Martin Craigs, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association. Both techniques and targets are evolving on a fast track basis, he claims.

“They are increasingly using social media and highly targeted promotional tools,” he says. “And Russia is certainly a fast growing outbound market. Over one million Russians visited Thailand last year, more Russians than British in Thailand for the first time.” 

While the early signs of co-operative arrangements with airports in destination marketing are there, there is a long way to go. “The importance of airports and air service agreements is also evolving, but more often than not, much more slowly due to the more cautious and conservative attitudes and regulatory environment surrounding airport management who are primarily public service orientated,” says Craigs.

He stresses the scope for more collaboration. For the traveller, maximum convenience and minimum bureaucracy are keys to success and technology will be the main facilitator in this regard. But, visas and airport security remain the main challenges but this is true of large swathes of the world and not just Asia-Pacific.

The region, however, is rich in all manner of tourism, from luxurious beaches to untamed jungles and ancient sites. Tourism is huge business and the major component in many economies. Governments in the region are beginning to understand the value the tourism sector represents.

Craigs has an interesting take on the numbers touted for Asia-Pacific. The 200 million outbound travellers from China by 2020 is an exciting prospect and has led to some fevered forecasts. But Craigs warns that the issue is actually getting those would-be travellers out of China and accommodating them in their preferred destination. 

The challenges range from having enough new aircraft, pilots and technicians to building new runways or airports. Establishing the right framework, from easy access visas to enough hotel rooms, is also essential. “What is the realistic carrying capacity of the receiving nations?” asks Craigs. “Thailand had over 26 million visitors last year but the outbound numbers suggest that could grow to 78 million visitors per annum by 2018. That’s clearly not possible. So maybe other destinations like the Philippines and Indonesia will win out.”

And this is where World Routes – as well as the Regional Routes events – are proving crucial. “World Routes, which I had the pleasure of attending in 2012 in Abu Dhabi, is certainly a value adding way to build tourism links, particularly on second city routes,” says Craigs.  There is clearly outbound demand from North Asia for the blue skies and golden sands of ASEAN nations as seen in the double digit growth. But the demand needs to be served in an intelligent way that involves a realistic assessment by all stakeholders.