The next big export from Asia - travellers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 October, 2007, 12:00am

The rise of Asia as an economic power bloc comes in many guises. The least threatening, and perhaps the most welcome, of these signs to others is the growing number of people from the region who are travelling abroad. Last year, 34 million mainland Chinese alone paid visits to other countries. With increasing affluence and freedom from want comes a desire to travel and see the world - or simply to go shopping in foreign places.

The next wave of global tourism and business travelling will, therefore, no longer be tourists visiting the region from elsewhere, but Asians venturing outside the region. It is hardly surprising, then, that the phenomenally successful travel guidebook franchise Lonely Planet is eyeing the growing middle classes across Asia, especially those in the mainland, Korea and India. The guidebook empire behind the travel bible for two generations of western backpackers seeking exotic locations to explore has come full circle.

It is now actively expanding across the region, with books specifically written for Asian's travelling abroad. More than 500 titles have already been published in the Japanese, Korean and Chinese languages. Of these, 7 million copies have been sold. Rival travel publishers are following suit.

This stems from the growing recognition that Asia is no longer just a destination for western tourists, but that Asians, especially those from India and the mainland, will be a new and powerful force to be reckoned with in global tourism.

These days, most good travel books include informed sections with simple instructions in local languages, history and customs and etiquettes. Just as westerners have been taught what behaviour is acceptable and how to avoid giving offence in foreign countries, the new Asian travellers will also need to attune their sensitivities to the cultures and traditions of others. Mainland authorities have offered advice for mainlanders on how to behave overseas. This aims to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings, cultural biases and even racist thinking on both sides.

Rising powers require informed and worldly citizens - what better way to educate and entertain oneself about the world than visiting other countries.