While travel players in Europe and the US are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst due to sliding economic indicators, I feel very lucky to be able to say that things are looking more optimistic in Asia Pacific.
We are fortunate that our region is fortified by emerging economies such as China and India, even during a downturn. While the IMF has scaled back its annual economic forecast growth for China to 7.5% from 8.25%, this remains a very positive projection in relative terms. And according to a report by Carlson Wagonlit, the only market in Asia Pacific expected to experience a decline in overall economic performance in 2012 is Japan; which of course is continuing its recovery from the natural disasters of 2011 as well as ongoing deflation and debt hurdles.
On top of the positive economic outlook, there are several key trends that will help to further boost travel volumes for Asia Pacific.
Good value travel deals: The silver lining of the economic clouds hovering over Europe and the US is cheaper travel deals and stronger currency conversions for Asia Pacific leisure travellers. This spells opportunity for travel agents and online travel sellers in our region, who may see more customers booking long-haul trips. This in turn will benefit travel providers in Europe and the US who can attract tourists to spend on domestic travel, hotels and tours.
Corporate travel growth: According to a recent Deloitte survey, more professionals plan to travel for business in 2012 than they did during 2011. Several industry sources including Egencia and American Express have predicted growth in corporate travel prices of up to six percent for flights and hotel rooms in Asia Pacific based on this projected increase in demand. This important growth area will buffer any decline in leisure travel that stems from a drop in consumer confidence and spending.
Online momentum: While online travel penetration varies greatly across the Asia Pacific region, the overall picture is one of rapid growth and adoption. The online travel booking market in Asia Pacific is expected to grow by 30-to-40 percent per year, compared to a projected five percent growth in the United States.
Yes, we have been cautious and disciplined in our efforts to cushion our business should there by an impact on the travel industry. We are confident that the fundamentals of our business in Asia Pacific are strong and the market, while still evolving, is resilient. There may be storms on the horizon, but we will persist, remain focused and succeed.
So, it’s full steam ahead in Asia Pacific!