Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Asian tourism industry to see sharp growth, China seen leading boom

By Anjana Menon, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : The tourism industry in Asia is set for exponential growth, according to analysts speaking at an industry event on Wednesday.

They say there will be major changes, both in the type of travel and the profile of travellers.

And some cities are finding that they may have to reinvent themselves to attract the numbers.

Travel in Asia is set to shoot to record levels, with overall spending on travel and tourism in the region forecast to hit US$165 billion by 2014.

Within that time frame, China is expected to become the second largest destination globally.

But while China opens its doors to more foreign tourists, the Chinese themselves are fast becoming globe-trotters.

Said Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, economic advisor at MasterCard, "China looms large. China's arrivals are growing extremely fast, both within Asia and outside and my expectation is that it is likely to continue as China improves infrastructure. As we speak, some 80 airports are being constructed in China and also of course the next 20 years we talk about 30,000 kilometres of highways being built in China."

By that time China will have some 293 million people with household incomes of more than US$4,000 annually.

They are not seen as big spenders, but are willing and able to travel, and will dominate the volume and value markets.

As the travel market grows, analysts say tourists are expected to become more demanding and discerning.

There will an increasing number of travellers on the lookout for more exotic locations and variety.

This puts pressure on cities like Singapore to reinvent themselves to attract visitors.

Said Clint Laurent, director at Asian Demographics, "Singapore is under threat. It's had a very nice position of being a safe destination in Asia to go to and obviously a very good shopping destination to go to. They are going to have to move along very quickly. The better educated older class is actually a bit bored with shopping."

But shopping will still remain important, especially for Asian women travellers, whose purchasing powers are growing.

The Asian traveller-shopper segment is forecast to grow substantially, and this will benefit the four cities of Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore and Bangkok. - CNA /ct

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