Asia-Pacific’s travel industry could be the first to recover by 2023

A new report indicates the travel industry in Asia-Pacific may be the only one in the world to recover by 2023.

This year’s “Travel & Tourism Economic Impact” report — an annual publication by the London-based World Travel & Tourism Council — shows that, compared with pre-pandemic levels, tourism revenue in 2020 dropped more in Asia-Pacific (59%) than anywhere else.

Recovery efforts in the region were muted in 2021, with most countries there maintaining strict border restrictions. Tourism revenue’s contribution to regional gross domestic product rose about 16%, lower than the 28% in Europe and 23% in North America.

However, the report shows Asia-Pacific is expected to close the gap this year, with the amount of travel revenue contributing to the overall economy forecast to grow by 71%.

Travel in Asia-Pacific is soaring this year — restrictions were first eased in India and Australia, then Malaysia and Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations, followed most recently by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan in the north.

The 10-year forecast

The WTTC’s report expects continued gains to Asia-Pacific’s travel industry in 2023, followed by another year of positive growth in 2024.

By 2025, it estimates, travel revenue will contribute 32% more to the region’s GDP than it did before the pandemic — a number that far exceeds every other region’s, except that of the Middle East (30%).

The report estimates the average annual growth rate of the global economy will be 2.7% from 2022 to 2032. Yet, during the same period, tourism’s contribution to the global economy is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 5.8%, according to the report.

In Asia-Pacific, the numbers climb even higher, with tourism contributions to GDP expected to grow at an average annual rate of 8.5%, according to the WTTC.

Where travel jobs will be

The WTTC predicts the global travel industry will add 126 million new jobs in the next decade. Of this, it says, about 65% will be in Asia-Pacific.

Just under half of the new jobs are expected to be in China and India, according to the WTTC.

Job creation prediction by WTTC between 2022 and 2032, by country

Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are also expected to see marked tourism job growth in the next decade, adding 5.3 million, 3.5 million and 3.15 million new jobs, respectively.

The China issue

The report notes that Asia’s ability to fully rebound by 2023 could be jeopardized if China continues to restrict international travel.

During the Communist Party’s 20th National Congress on Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the country’s dynamic zero-Covid policy had achieved “positive results,” without indicating whether the policy would change.

To contain recent case spikes, officials have closed entertainment venues in Shanghai and schools in the central Chinese city of Xi’an, while placing millions of its citizens under new lockdowns.

Sophie Tremblay

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