Asia-Pacific is on the verge of losing its title as the world’s largest tourist region

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(CNN) — Asia-Pacific is home to some of the world’s most beloved travel destinations, from the natural beauty of Bali to the urban excitement of Singapore. These dream vacation hotspots – coupled with the region’s trading power – have secured Asia-Pacific the title of the world’s largest tourism region for much of the past decade.

But with destinations like China and Japan relatively slow to drop Covid entry restrictions, Asia-Pacific air travel remains low compared to the region’s pre-pandemic levels.

While Asia-Pacific air traffic once accounted for more than a third of all global passenger travel, aviation in the region remains down 45% from pre-pandemic levels, according to CAPA.

Meanwhile, CAPA suggests European air travel is back to around 85% of pre-pandemic levels, even taking into account the continued impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

slow recovery

Japan is expected to fully reopen on October 11. Pictured: Fushimi Inari Shrine in Japan

aaron90311/Adobe Stock

In 2019, 3.38 billion passengers passed through airports in Asia-Pacific. In contrast, CAPA reports that current forecasts from ACI Asia-Pacific – an industry organization that represents airports in the region – suggest that 1.84 billion passengers will have passed through Asia-Pacific travel hubs by now. the end of 2022.

A key factor in this slow recovery is China’s “zero-Covid” border policy and the slow easing of travel restrictions in Japan, at least according to ACI Asia-Pacific and CAPA. Japan is set to officially reopen to tourists on October 11.

“What happens there has an outsized impact on the rest of the region,” says CAPA of China and Japan, pointing out that they are two of the region’s main tourist markets.

CAPA reports that most travel to Asia-Pacific destinations remains 50% or more below 2019 levels, with a few exceptions, such as India, which is just 11% below its 2019 figure.

Domestic travel in Asia-Pacific is recovering faster than international travel, CAPA notes — domestic travel in China, for example, is down just 5.4% from 2019 levels.

Overall, CAPA predicts that Asia-Pacific will not see a full return to pre-pandemic travel numbers until late 2023 or early 2024.

“Even then, recovery depends on the opening of country borders and an end to persistent travel restrictions, as well as broader economic and epidemiological situations,” the report read.

CAPA is advocating for “harmonization of international travel rules” and “political commitments to openness and freedom of movement”, as well as a continued vaccination campaign, to help travel resume.

Photo from the top of the Great Wall of China courtesy of Powerstock/Adobe Stock

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