Boom in tourism facilitated by several factors, and will see 10 times more arrivals within 10 years, says Gavin Tee

Tourist numbers to ASEAN are expected to surge by at least 10 times in the next 10 years and will peak in 2022, says property consultant Dato’ Seri Gavin Tee. “Within the next 2 – 3 years, a lot of investments will come in to improve the infrastructure and to build resorts in the region. Most of the projects would be completed by 2022, thus improving connectivity in the region and attracting more visitors.”

He adds that in the next 5 years, tourism in ASEAN will grow even faster due to the following factors:

1. Central location and abundance of natural resources

ASEAN is strategically located right in the centre between Northeast Asia, the Pacific and the West comprising Europe and America. It is home to untapped rich natural resources such as beautiful beaches, ocean life and rainforests which comprise one of the highest in concentration in the world. The tropical weather and year-round summer temperature make it a year-round destination. Some countries like Myanmar have just opened up in the last few years and are home to the best-preserved heritage buildings and religious structures. Angkor Wat, Luang Prabang, and Borobudur all come to mind. This will further enhance the travel experience.

2. Infrastructure improvements

Infrastructure changes will further increase mobility of the people, not just from ASEAN but from Europe, China and Australia. In particular, China has become the biggest source of inbound visitors to ASEAN. This is accelerated by the many low cost carriers (especially Air Asia) as well as and perhaps of greater impact is the ‘Rail Revolution’. Cross-border rail networks are being built across ASEAN. So, instead of visiting just one country, they will visit 2 -3 countries as a package. With better infrastructure and ease of accessibility, more tourists would come and stay longer. A good example: Intercity travel within China reached a frenzy during public holidays following the completion of its vast railway network system including the high speed rail.

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3. Rise of middle class population

ASEAN has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world with an average age of 26 – 27, an age when many start travelling overseas. Additionally, the increase in income per capita and the rise of the middle income population of both ASEAN and China will make tourism even more popular – this will provide a huge volume of travelling, not just for leisure but for business as well.

4. AEC impetus

The rise of AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) will attract much higher number of business travellers from overseas such as China, America and Europe. With an estimated population of 625 million, ASEAN is a huge market that attracts foreign multinationals which will inevitably set up their headquarters here in order to serve the Southeast Asian market. As business and trade volume increase in developing countries such as India and Myanmar, so too would the number of travellers.

5. Introduction of foreign best practices

With demand rising for accommodation from travellers, more foreign investments would pour in to invest in tourism properties such as five star resorts and retirement facilities. More five star international hotels, more impressive architecture and five star services would be introduced. Amenities at tourism spots would be improved and overall services would be upgraded to international standard. This would attract even more travellers. Surveys have shown that 80% of tourists from China prefer to stay in 4 or 5-star hotels.

6. Preferred medical tourism / retirement destination

Studies have also shown that ASEAN remains a favourite destination for older tourists from Japan, China and Europe due to its lower cost but similar standard medical facilities such as in cities like Bangkok, Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

7. Government support

Most governments in ASEAN will encourage tourism and adopt an open policy such as incentives for tourism businesses and visa waiver. This will result in increased competition between ASEAN neighbours. But with more competition, comes improvements in quality and services in this region. For example, Malaysia saw an influx of Chinese arrivals following its new e-visa and visa-waiver program that began in March 2016.


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