Asia travel to get worse before it gets better
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Asia travel to get worse before it gets better

Tourist arrivals to Asia are expected to shrink as much as 5 percent this year before rebounding modestly next year, but full recovery will only set in by 2011, a travel group said Tuesday.

The region’s performance has been mixed this year with countries such as China and South Korea showing resilience but others like Thailand and Vietnam still in the doldrums, said Greg Duffell, president of the Bangkok-based Pacific Asia Travel Association.

The industry has experienced a slight upturn amid new hopes of a global economic recovery, but visitor arrivals to the region are still down 5 percent from a year ago and likely to shrink between 4 percent and 5 percent this year, he said. Next year could bring a rebound of between 2 percent and 3 percent growth. Travel within Asia is largely driving the industry, he added, with long-haul tourism from the US, Europe and other distant locations lagging.

“We will see full recovery only from late next year or by 2011,” Duffell told The Associated Press on the sidelines of an airports conference.

Duffel said China’s tourism market has been buoyed by government stimulus and 20 million Chinese were expected to travel out of the country this year. In South Korea, the won’s depreciation has helped spur tourism while Indonesia and Malaysia are both showing robust growth, he said.

But Vietnam, which used to be a tourism hotspot a few years ago, is losing its shine as it has became vastly overpriced, he said. Thailand’s tourism industry is also in the blues, hurt by political instability that has kept holiday travelers away. Because the country serves as a major aviation hub, Thailand’s problems have weighed on regional tourism as well, he said.

With its growing affluence and huge population, “China is shaping globally to be a leading destination and source market for the world” amid further economic liberalization, Duffell said. China is building 92 new airports and accounts for 13 percent of all new aircraft orders in the next 20 years, he added.

“Despite the tough times, Asians want to travel,” he said. “Asia-Pacific is the growth region of the future and China is a major portion of that.”

 Associated Press