Sustainable Tourism In Asia and Pacific Will Drive Economic Growth

Asian Development Bank
ADB President Takehiko Nakao on May 4, discussed policy options to ensure sustainable tourism in Asia and the Pacific during the 2nd Annual Meeting of the ADB Board of Governors Seminar on Role of Tourism for Sustainable Development

(Photo: Asian Development Bank)

Tourism is growing, and its growth is faster than Asia and the Pacific might be able to handle.

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2018, international tourist arrivals increased by 5.6 percent to 1.4 billion, with a quarter of the total exploring Asia and the Pacific countries.

However, this staggering growth has its challenges and benefits which impact the economy and the environment- taking into account the quantity rather than the quality, threatening natural and cultural heritage, which, in a long term could not be sustainable.

ADB President Takehiko Nakao in his opening address at the 52nd ADB Annual Meeting in Fiji on May 1, he said in 2018, Pacific and Asian countries received about 350 million international tourists, a number which has doubled since 2015.

In 2018, $390 billion in international tourists spending went to Asia and the Pacific, proving that the region has the most sought after destinations in the world.

The ADB said international visitors to Asia have risen by 65 percent between 2010 and 2018.

People's Republic of China, Thailand, Japan; Hong Kong, China; and Malaysia are key Asian destinations 

The ADB said Asian tourists are also contributing to global tourism, thanks to higher incomes and a rapidly growing middle class who loves to travel.  But a high arrival becomes only a number to many, while to others as ADB president Takehiko Nakao has noted during his closing remarks on May 4 at the meeting in Fiji, that sustainable tourism has been vital to raising gross domestic product and jobs.

Globally, international tourist arrivals are expected to reach 2.44 billion by 2030, a 75% increase over 2018, with Asia and the Pacific projected to account for a third of this number.

To continue to harness tourism for development, the ADB said that it will be supporting sustainable tourism through infrastructure investments, policy reforms, and institutional development in the Pacific and Asia, according to the multilateral bank's Strategy 2030.

ADB has provided assistance for transport, waste management, and skills training and planning. It has helped protect natural lakes and local livelihoods in the Kyrgyz Republic and Mongolia supported tourism planning in the Federated States of Micronesia and Myanmar and worked to improve transport, infrastructure, and utilities to ensure sustainable tourism in Bhutan and India.

We can make tourism more human and inclusive by investing in the right skill sets of people,"  Nakao said.

He added,  "we must also pursue sustainable tourism by protecting nature, the environment, cultural heritage, and local communities. Otherwise, cities, beaches, and forests lose their attraction. Appropriate policies and regulations are essential."

At the Governors' Seminar, titled "The Role of Tourism for Sustainable Development," at the ADB's Board of Governors in Fiji, panelists talked about how tourism can damage the environment and how policies could mitigate the impacts.

In Fiji, a 10 percent tax on tourism-related businesses goes to a  fund for climate change mitigation projects.

In Cambodia, they made sure that cultural heritage is protected. The Angkor Wat temple is managed by an authority created by the government to better manage the site and revenues from it will trickle down to the local community.

"Asia and the Pacific have some of the world's most beautiful natural landscapes and unique cultural monuments," Mr. Nakao said. "As tourism continues to expand rapidly, it will be important to pursue sustainable tourism that protects the environment such as forests and coral reefs, preserves local cultures, and benefits local communities."

For Fiji, the host of the ADB event, the resilience of the infrastructure is key to ensure the long-term effects of tourism.

 Fiji Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Civil Service, and Communications Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said this is particularly important in Pacific and developing countries,

"The infrastructure that goes to the hotels-the electricity cables, the water, the sewers, the etc.-the government needs to build resilience on that. The other aspect of the environment and climate change is to do with the oceans ... all countries need to make a consolidated effort in respect to climate change."

Indonesia Finance Minister Ms. Sri Mulyani Indrawati also said that there is a need to ensure that locals participate in tourism and that it remains everybody's business.

Asia and tourism growth

Asia will continue to drive global tourism growth according to new research from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)

Foreign inbound arrivals into the Asia Pacific in 2023 will continue to be dominated by arrivals from China. Combined tourists from China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong SAR, and Macao, China will together account for almost 40 percent of the expected volume in that year, according to PATA.

In an earlier statement, PATA CEO Mario Hardy said 'significant changes in the structure of international travel into and across the Asia Pacific region are evident in the analyses of travel flows that underpin this report'.

"With the Asia Pacific region expected to host an additional 120 million international arrivals over the next five years, we need to ensure that we are prepared and thereby able to deliver the superior hospitality, experiences, and memories for which Asia Pacific destinations are so well known", he added.

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