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19 Jan, 2014

ASEAN Tourism: The Power of 10 and the 10 Factors Driving Growth


KUCHING, MALAYSIA: Research and the very latest data released today by the Thammasat University College of Innovation shows that the 10 ASEAN countries will have welcomed the historic number of tourism arrivals of 100 million during 2013 and will likely show a significant increase on that in 2014, given the trajectory of the previous year’s data.

The information was released in conjunction with the ASEAN Tourism Forum being held in Kuching, Malaysia.

“There is no doubt that the arrivals to ASEAN for 2013 are right on the threshold of the magical 100 million, given that the ‘power of ten’ grouping has created a fulcrum for tourism through concerted country-specific marketing campaigns and also a regional push to share the allure,” said John Koldowski, Head of the Service Innovation and Development Unit within Thammasat University’s College of Innovation.

Mr. Koldowski, one of the leading researchers and analysts in the regional tourism sector, added the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community at the twilight hour of 2015 also offered enormous opportunities to not only increase the tourism arrivals to specific destinations within ASEAN but to also consolidate the quality of tourists in the future.

“Our research in the future will include a number of associated metrics beyond visitor head counts so that we will be in a better position to give the travel and tourism industry the data they need for translation into marketing campaigns, forward planning strategies and human capital deployment,” said Koldowski.

“The travel and tourism industry across ASEAN is one of the most formidable forces for prosperity and future development, and our aim with the ‘Power of Ten’ research is to give stakeholders at all levels, from SMEs to multinationals, the opportunity to share information and thereby plan their future strategies,” said Koldowski.

The research includes practical listings of arrivals, source markets and average spend, the three key elements of tourism marketing strategy, and has been launched as an exclusive service to organizations who need to connect with their peers and service providers across the entire 10-country region.

“There is no such place as ASEAN, in as much as we have 10 totally different cultures, totally different languages, religions and even what each one puts on its dinner plate,’ said Koldowski.

He added: “Our mission, with this first exclusive briefing on the ASEAN arrivals situation in 2013 is to put all the data in one place, in a useable and practical format, to help decision makers plan their strategies for the coming year and decade to come.”

He warned that the continuing volatility of both markets and some destinations would make growth difficult to forecast, but added the precedents of recovery were so powerful the actual arrivals were likely to continue on their growth trajectory in the coming years.

“ASEAN is unique in any world country correlation, because it covers arguable the most diverse cultural and economic region in the world. The very diversity is what makes it the most compelling arrivals region in the world, and our mission at CITU is to facilitate successful arrivals goals for all the countries in the region, with the common goal of guaranteeing our visitors the best possible experience across the kaleidoscope of opportunities that exist within a two-hour radius,” Koldowski opined.

The full “Power of 10” paper can be downloaded FREE by clicking on the image of the cover below.

Interested parties can request future updates, which will be posted frequently, with quarterly reports being offered to participating subscribers.


By Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor, Travel Impact Newswire

Here are 10 major reasons why ASEAN travel is growing. There are many more, but these should do the trick for starters.

1. Aviation access: Led by the key hubs of Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, there is absolutely no shortage of aviation access into the region. In addition to the national airlines of the ASEAN countries themselves, there is extensive capacity coming into the region via the airlines of the Gulf countries. Within the region, the low-cost airlines are providing tremendous connectivity to the secondary airports and popular/emerging tourism destinations, beach resorts and cultural cities such as Luang Prabang, Hue, Chiang Rai, Samui, etc. Aviation access has a bright future, especially with the additional liberalisation to come under the ASEAN open sky agreements.

2. More border checkpoints: Cross-border tourism is one of the primary drivers of intra-ASEAN travel, and will gain further impetus. It is one of the main reasons why Singaporeans are the largest generator of visitors to Malaysia. China shares a border with Vietnam, and Laos with Myanmar. In one of the strongest indications of the future potential of cross-border growth, Laos has become the 7th country to generate more than 1 million visitor arrivals to Thailand, most of it overland traffic crossing the four bridges that span the Mekong River. The only country that will lose out is the Philippines which does not share a land border with any of the ASEAN countries.

3. Visa-free access: In an age of travel liberalisation and last-minute decisions, the 1st choice holiday destination usually is the one that is easiest to get to. The fewer the visa hassles, the better for that destination. Collectively, ASEAN countries have arguably one of the most liberal visa regimes in the world. In addition to their own citizens who can for the most part travel easily within the region without a visa, the ASEAN countries also extend visa free travel facilities to many of the long-standing source markets in Europe, Japan, Australia, United States, Canada etc.

4. Rise of the ASEAN middle class: One of the best examples of this is Vietnam which has now become a significant outbound source market, thanks to strong economic growth. In most cases, the neighbouring countries of ASEAN become the first choice destinations for the rising numbers. Most of the middle class is concentrated in the ASEAN cities and the suburban areas, which are also the primary generators of travel.

5. Shorter, more frequent holidays: Short holiday breaks over long weekends are becoming particularly popular, especially among  stressed-out office workers looking for quick breaks to flee urban traffic, pollution and domestic hassles and get a quick change of environment. There is no shortage of holidays of all kinds in the region due to the variety of cultural, national, religious and other festivals. School holidays add a particular peak.

6. Rise of Myanmar: The story of Myanmar today is equal to the rise of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos after the end of the Indochina wars. It has added another facet to the growing diversity of the entire ASEAN region and will become a major driver of growth as the infrastructure develops and connectivity increases, by land, sea and air.

7. Rise of China and India: Nearly all the urban areas of these two countries, the most populous in the world, are within 3 to 5 hours flying time of most of the ASEAN region. China is already growing by leaps and bounds to all the ASEAN countries, and India will follow suit. This factor alone will lead to significant and long-standing changes in product development, budget allocations and marketing strategies over the next few years.

8. Strong marketing campaigns: Combined, the ASEAN national tourism organisations, airlines, hotel groups, credit card companies, online travel agents,  convention centres, and state and provincial destinations spend millions of dollars annually on regional and global tourism marketing. Tourism has become a major lifestyle choice for just about everyone who can afford it and a major generator of jobs and income for countries, communities, businesses and economies. Competition is strong, but there is plenty of business for everyone.

9. Business travel and MICE: Numerous convention centres of all shapes and sizes have sprung up around ASEAN. This has led to a commensurate growth in trade fairs, exhibitions and conventions. Just like the airports, the primary convention centres emerged in the main cities, and new ones are cropping up in secondary cities and provincial areas. These are becoming increasingly attractive to MICE organisers, creating a new wave of growth.

10. Strong product development: With the exception of winter holidays, the ASEAN countries have just about everything for everyone — from ecotourism and birdwatching to health and wellness, sports events, spiritual journeys, culinary delights to laziness-driven beach holidays. These is no shortage of diversity and variety suited to all kinds of budgets and demographic profiles. With the flow of mass-market tourism assured by the opening up of China and India, and increasingly Russia, there is an increasing move towards niche market tourism and specialised, experiential holidays. Theme parks and sports stadiums are also emerging, all of which will need to be heavily marketed in future.


This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating tsunami that hit Indonesia and Thailand. While there are plenty of growth opportunities, the ASEAN region also has to be prepared for risks and crises, both man-made and “acts of God”. Imtiaz Muqbil and John Koldowski have prepared a special presentation to help the ASEAN tourism stakeholders be forewarned and forearmed.


Click here to ready more about the early warnings.