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Asia Pacific travel industry to weather US recession - PATA


Singapore (Thomson Financial) - Tourism revenues in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to surpass 4.6 trillion US dollars by 2010 and visitor arrivals should reach close to half a billion people, an industry association said Wednesday.

A US recession is likely to affect the industry, but strong growth in key Asian economies such as China and South Korea will drive regional travel demand, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) said.

Despite high oil prices, stock market volatility and the impact of a possible US recession, travel arrivals are expected to increase between 7.0 and 8.0 percent annualy during the period, PATA said in releasing its forecasts for 2008-2010.

PATA director John Koldowski said as much as two-thirds of all international arrivals in Asia-Pacific are generated from within the region.

"Due to the global nature of the business, Asian markets will inevitably be impacted by a slowdown in the US economy triggered by the credit crunch," Koldowski said.

"However, the medium-term outlook for most Asian economies is very strong with growth rates well above world averages."

Localized issues and conflicts, including political and civil unrest in some countries, are a bigger danger to tourism growth, he said. Asked if the unrest in Tibet will have an impact on arrival numbers for China, which is hosting the 2008 Olympic Games in August, Koldowski said: "We don't think so because what we're really looking at here is a three-year window and there would be some spikes and falls through that period."

China is forecast to receive 143 million travelers this year, rising to 154.23 million in 2009 and 163.28 million in 2010, up from 124.94 million in 2006. Hong Kong is expected to welcome 35.85 million visitors and Singapore 12.11 million in 2010. The only country expected to record negative growth during the three-year period is Sri Lanka, PATA said. Rapid growth in low-cost air travel, moves to liberalize aviation, stronger Asia Pacific economies, China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics and massive casino projects in Macau and Singapore are among the key drivers for travel growth, Koldowski said.

Rising aircraft deliveries and the introduction of new models such as the Airbus A380, the world's biggest airliner, and Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner will help the industry meet demand, he said. US aircraft-maker Boeing said last month that airlines in South and Southeast Asia are expected to order more than 3,000 planes worth 103 billion US dollars in the next 20 years, with India, Indonesia and Malaysia as key growth drivers.

Airbus also said during the Singapore Airshow last month more than half of the orders this year for the A380 superjumbos are expected to come from Asia. More than 1,200 hotels were under construction in Asia-Pacific as of last year, adding almost 367,000 rooms when they are completed, PATA said. By 2010, international tourist arrivals to the Asia-Pacific region are expected to reach 463.34 million, nearly double the 245 million in 2000, it said.

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