INTERNATIONAL. A new research report from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has underlined the rise of Asia Pacific as the world’s great tourism arrivals and earnings driver.

Tourist arrivals in Asia and the Pacific grew by +6% in 2017 to 323 million. This is around a quarter of the world’s total and ahead of other regions. In turn, this had a positive impact on tourism earnings across the region’s destinations. These have steadily increased from 17% of the global share in 2000 to 29% in 2017. In dollars, it is equivalent to US$390 billion in tourism receipts.

The figures were revealed at the Global Tourism Economy Forum in Macau in Greater China by the UNWTO, in partnership with the Global Tourism Economy Research Centre (GTERC).

Asia Pacific is gaining share of both international arrivals and tourist receipts.

The Asia Tourism Trends Report details how Asia Pacific has been outperforming all world regions in terms of international arrivals growth since 2005, much of it intra-Asian. The study says that Asia Pacific is the second most visited region after Europe, but that international tourist arrivals growth, averaging +6% per year since 2005, is ahead of the world average of +4%.

Asia Pacific travellers now spend over US$500 billion

UNWTO said: Rapid economic growth in a region with over half the world’s population – coupled with rising air connectivity, travel facilitation and large infrastructure projects – has boosted international travel.”

As a source market, Asia Pacific is also playing a vital role in fuelling growth in both regional and long-haul destinations. The region produced 335 million international travellers spending US$502 billion in 2017, or 37% of the world total. Around 80% of their visits were concentrated in Asian destinations. Outside the region, 56% of the long-haul trips were to Europe.

Focus on China’s Greater Bay Area

China – the world’s second biggest economy – is also a focus of the report. The final chapter provides an insight into the Greater Bay Area of China, a project to create a large socio-economic zone and tourism area comprising the two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as nine cities in Guangdong Province.

The Pearl River Delta area (in green) is home to several cities with high tourism development potential according to UNWTO. Hong Kong is show in red.

According to the report, the Greater Bay Area is China’s fastest-growing tourism region and it suggests that the Pearl River Delta is home to several cities with high tourism development potential. They include Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Foshan.

The Chinese Government has already been successful in developing the island of Hainan into a duty free destination, with further expansion of the holiday island’s travel retail business planned.