2006 was a special year in the evolution of the Asian travel industry, the region continued steaming along with record growth figures, surpassing all other major regions and forging a strong position in the global game.
However the big question is "will this momentum be carried over to 2007"? So far the overwhelmingly popular answer has been "yes"!
For the most part inbound visitor numbers across the region rose dramatically. The few countries that did not were generally those suffering from exceptional circumstances such as terrorist bombings or natural disasters.
Hong Kong enjoyed an 8.1% visitor increase in 2006, and with the recent launch of low cost carrier Oasis Hong Kong, linking London and Hong Kong on a budget, look for this figure to climb even further in 2007. But Hong Kong was hardly the tip of the ice berg when you consider visitor increases for other nations ranged from 11.9% in South Korea, to 16.1% in the Philippines.
Following the Oasis Hong Kong lead, AirAsia and Jetstar have recently introduced low cost long haul routes of their own, and now suddenly the number of ingredients in the recipe has tripled. Look for demand for this style of budget long haul flying to give rise to further route openings in 2007, and consequently further increases to regional visitor numbers.
The hotel industry is positively booming, lending directly to the new found accessibility of destinations and connecting flights across the region. All the major hotels chains made new purchases or embarked on ambitious development programs in 2006, another trend that is showing no signs of slowing into 2007.
Asian destinations are finally discovering the power of branding, positioning and target marketing, reinventing themselves competitively on a global scale. Take for example the gambling sensation that is Macau. Las Vegas stalwarts will argue that it has nothing on its North American big brother, but statisticians will beg to differ. With the addition of seven new casinos last year, and revenue growth of 22% totaling $6.95 billion, Macau is now the number one gambling centre of the world and rightfully markets itself as such.
Undoubtedly all eyes are on Asia in 2007, as the extent of the regions growth are seemingly boundless and it continues to move from strength to strength. The challenge the travel industry now faces is simply to keep pace. Hear more on the impacts of Asia's growing industry at the Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2007, Singapore March 13-14th. Visit www.eyefortravel.com/tdsasia2007 for more details.