PATA figures show a healthy growth in travel to Asia in 06

Destinations in Asia attracted an estimated 252 million international visitors in 2006, an increase of 6.9% compared with the previous year, according to preliminary data compiled by the Pacific Asia Travel Association.

PATA member countries in the Americas and in the western and South Pacific generated an additional 85.3 million and 18.5 million arrivals, respectively, pushing the entire regions total to nearly 356 million, for an increase of 5.2%.

By far, however, the biggest numbers and the biggest increases were reported by countries within Asia.

China, for example, reported nearly 125 million international arrivals. Although the total increased only 4% over 2005, it accounted for nearly half the total international arrivals for all of Asia.

Chinas two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, generated another 47 million, which would boost Chinas total to approximately 170 million.

Hong Kong reported more than 25 million arrivals, an increase of 8%, while Macau, a boomtown for hotel and casino development, reported an increase of nearly 18%, to 22 million arrivals. The next largest destination in Asia in terms of international arrivals in 2006 was Malaysia with 17.5 million.

A number of smaller Asian nations with developing tourism markets reported double-digit growth, including Bhutan (27.3%), Cambodia (19.6%), Mongolia (15.3%) and Myanmar (13.5%). India reported a 13% increase to 4.4 million.

Thailand, recovering from the effects of the 2004 tsunami, which depressed traffic throughout 2005, bounced back in 2006 with a record 13.8 million arrivals, an increase of 19.5%.

PATAs database divides the region into three main areas: the Americas, the Pacific and Asia, with Asia further subdivided into South Asia, Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. Of those three, the countries in Northeast Asia, which includes China, Hong Kong and Macau, reported an overall growth rate of 6%, while arrivals to Southeast Asia grew 9.4% and South Asia reported an increase of nearly 12%.

The more developed Pacific Rim markets showed much slower growth rates.

The total for the Americas, for example, grew only 1.7%, while Australias international arrivals were virtually flat at 5.5 million, and New Zealand reported a 1.6% increase to 2.4 million.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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