Misconceptions about the region to cost tourism

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 May, 2006, 12:00am

Travellers' misconceptions are likely to cost tourism billions this year, according to a new survey.

Nearly one in five, 18 per cent, of respondents identified unaffected areas of the 2004 tsunami as 'severely affected' or 'somewhat affected', in the Asia Travel Intentions Survey 2006 conducted by ACNielsen for Visa and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata).

The report into the attitudes of potential travellers to Asia showed people are more willing to visit than a year ago. Of individuals intending to travel internationally this year, 43 per cent are considering Asia. Of those, about 80 per cent said there was a more than 50 per cent chance of them doing so.

However, the study highlights concerns that are holding back growth in Asian tourism. Fears of a repeat of the freak wave still cast a shadow, with 35 per cent less likely to visit Asia because of tsunami.

The fearful were frequently misinformed. Sixteen months on, a significant number said that several destinations, including China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Singapore - places unaffected by the December 2004 tsunami - were 'still severely or somewhat affected'.

Travellers are also concerned about their safety in Asia, but they are just as badly informed about the locations where terrorism has occurred. Fifty-eight per cent say that terrorism threats make them less likely to visit Asia. More than two-thirds of respondents (69 per cent) are scared off by government-issued travel warnings.

The Chinese market is the most nervous about travelling to other Asian countries because of safety and security concerns (82 per cent), while countries with the least concern were France (57 per cent) and Germany (50 per cent).

Bird flu is now a hurdle to Asia tourism and potential travellers are equally ill-informed, with a third unsure which areas have been affected, and more than one in five believing that places with no cases have been affected. 'Travellers' perceptions do not always reflect the reality of a situation, and ignorance is costing the industry billions,' said Paul Dowling, Visa Asia-Pacific's executive vice-president for corporate relations. 'Better consumer education would bring billions of extra tourism dollars into Asia,' he added. 'We in the travel industry need to be more proactive in getting the facts in front of consumers.'

China arrivals slip

Arrivals to China fell 2.4 per cent year on year to 10 million this March as inbound travel from Hong Kong and Macau slowed, according to the Moodie Report. Hong Kong arrivals fell 0.7 per cent to six million, while visits from Macau residents fell 13.2 per cent to 1.9 million.

Japanese arrivals were down by 4.8 per cent year on year in March. More encouragingly, South Korean arrivals climbed 4.1 per cent. Taiwanese traffic increased 8.1 per cent to 342,400. Foreign visitor arrivals rose 3.7 per cent to 1.7 million for March. For January to March, arrivals grew 1.8 per cent year on year. Foreign arrivals led the growth, climbing 6.1 per cent to 4.6 million visits. Arrivals by Hong Kong residents grew 4.1 per cent to 17.3 million, while Macau residents' visits fell 7.9 per cent to 5.8 million. Taiwanese arrivals grew 5.7 per cent to 988,400.

Reputation over profit

As the spotlight turns on India's fast-growing travel market, brand image is 'everything', according to Jeh Wadia, managing director of low-cost carrier GoAir. Speaking at the recent Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation's Annual Middle East and Indian Subcontinent Aviation & Tourism Investor Summit in Mumbai, Mr Wadia said profits come second to reputation for new airlines. 'Reputation is more important than making money at first. Later, it costs ridiculous amounts of money to salvage a reputation and win back customers,' he said. Mr Wadia says GoAir cut back frequencies to maximise on-time performance and build a market position based on reliability.

India's aviation market grew 30 per cent last year as low fares from low-cost carriers, including Air Deccan, SpiceJet and GoAir stimulated demand.