Most countries and regions recorded month-on-month growth in visitor arrivals in March 2023, and Chinese tourists slowly started travelling again.
Boosted by increasing traveler numbers from mainland China, the visitor arrivals to Hong Kong increased by 68% in March, reaching 41% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Thailand, leading the recovery in the region, reached over 80% of pre-pandemic levels in March, followed by The Philippines and Singapore.
Malaysia targets 16.1 million international tourist arrivals generating a tourism receipt of RM 49.5 billion (USD 11.2 billion) in 2023. After its reopening in April last year, Malaysia recorded a total of 10 million tourists for 2022; the return of Chinese tourists is expected to boost the figure in 2023.
Like many destinations in the region, Malaysia also hopes that Chinese tourists will be able to revive the tourism and hotel industry further.
However, flight capacity remains an issue. The government aims to attract 5 million visitors from China this year, but the flights between the two countries are far less than enough to achieve the target.
On top of the connectivity, the government is working on simplifying the visa process for international tourists, including visa-on-arrival for Chinese and Indian visitors travelling from eligible countries.
The number of inbound visitors to Korea remained flat after reaching 539,000 in December 2022. In March 2023, however, Korea received over 800,000 inbound visitors, recording a 67% month-on-month growth. Japan, the United States and Taiwan were the top feeder markets, followed by mainland China, which accounted for 7% of the monthly figures.
To boost the number of inbound visitors and the tourism economy, Korea lifted the requirement of electronic travel authorization (K-ETA) for travellers from 22 countries and regions, including Japan, Singapore, U.S. and EU until 2024.
The visa-free entry for transit passengers will resume in mid-May, allowing eligible travellers to explore the area around the airport for a short period.
The Philippines Department of Tourism (DOT) announced that it aims to attract 5 million foreign visitors in 2023, doubling the figure of 2.6 million from last year.
The annual target is approximately 60% of the total number of foreign visitors in 2019. As of the end of March 2023, The Philippines received 1.4 million inbound visitors, among which 25% were from South Korea and 18% from the United States.
The government is also eager to attract Chinese tourists to The Philippines, having ranked 7th among the largest feeder market in the first quarter of 2023. However, relaxing the visa requirements for key markets remains in discussion between DOT and other departments.
On the other hand, DOT is looking to encourage domestic tourism by passing a new law that would see public holidays that fall on a weekend moved to the next working days, creating a long weekend.
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