The School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University joined forces with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) to publish the tenth in their series of Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts reports, providing the region’s travel and tourism sector, hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with much-needed projections of tourist numbers in the coming years.

The “Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2022-2024” were the work of the SHTM’s Hospitality and Tourism Resource Centre headed by Professor Haiyan Song, SHTM Associate Dean, Chair Professor and Mr and Mrs Chan Chak Fu Professor in International Tourism. Along with colleagues from other institutions, the team included Professor Gang Li of the University of Surrey, Dr Vera Lin of the Zhejiang University, Dr Anyu Liu and Ms Yangting Cai of the SHTM, Dr Richard Qiu of the University of Macau, as well as Dr Long Wen of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

Covering a three-year horizon, the report features the latest scenario forecasts for International Visitor Arrivals into 39 Asia Pacific destinations between 2022 and 2024 while presenting three possible scenarios for every destination describing mild, medium and severe effects of the pandemic. Among the projections essential to tourism planners and operators, what they can expect is that total visitor arrival numbers across the region are predicted to recover from 129.4 million in 2020 to 817.7 million, 702.5 million and 501.9 million under the mild, medium, and severe scenarios, respectively by 2024. Compared with the 2019 level of visitor numbers, the recovery rates of which are forecast to be 116.2%, 99.8% and 71.3% respectively.

Amongst the six destination regions and sub-regions of Asia Pacific, South Asia is expected to have the highest recovery rate of 123.3% under the mild scenario as it returned to more than 90% of the 2019 volume of visitors, in 2021. International visitor numbers into the Pacific and the Americas are projected to increase faster than other regions/sub-regions with the same recovery rate of 105% under the medium scenario and 80.3% and 79.2% respectively, under the severe scenario. The lowest recovery rate under the mild scenario is likely to be for Northeast Asia which is expected to return to 112.6% of the 2019 level of visitor numbers in 2024. Under the medium scenario, South Asia is predicted to be the slowest recovering sub-region with a recovery rate of 95%, while under the severe scenario it is expected to be West Asia with a rate of 61.3%.

Although these forecasts are contingent on the developments in COVID-19 and the economic recovery over the forecast period, the robust and considered research conducted by the SHTM and PATA offers informed optimism. “Whilst the overall trends in these latest forecasts are positive, recovery will however depend on both the containment of the global pandemic and economic growth which will create the conditions for tourism to pick up,” noted Professor Haiyan Song. “With the new landscape of tourism becoming very different in the post-pandemic era, these forecasts provide crucial insights for the global industry to develop better recovery strategies for the post-pandemic era.”

To maintain the region’s competitive edge, the PATA Visitor Forecasts Report serves as a reliable and effective forecasting system essential to assist destinations in the development of strategies for the years to come. The SHTM prides itself on its forecasting expertise and is proud to have joined hands with PATA to release the publication “Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2022-2024”. Members of the School’s Hospitality and Tourism Resource Centre publish world-leading research and provide consultancy services for tourism organisations worldwide. “We are delighted to be a part of the PATA forecasting initiative, as transferring our knowledge to practice is high on the School’s research agenda”, Professor Kaye Chon, SHTM Dean, Chair Professor and Walter and Wendy Kwok Family Foundation Professor in International Hospitality Management said.