Asia is predicted to spearhead a return to visitor growth across Asia Pacific in 2021 according to the newly updated forecasts released last week by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). During the expected recovery phase in 2021, Asia is expected to generate significantly improved arrival numbers, rebounding from a loss of almost 104 million visitors between 2019 and 2020 to growth of 5.6% in 2021 relative to 2019, delivering more than 18 million more arrivals over that period. Taking into account the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of arrivals under a most likely scenario is now expected to return to over 610 million in 2021, barring any other unforeseen interventions. This initial recovery is expected to see growth of around three percent above 2019 levels and herald a return to the initial forecast levels shortly thereafter.
This growth in international visitor arrivals (IVAs) is likely to vary by source regions, with Asia expected to rebound with the fastest growth rates relative to 2019. The Americas, which is expected to show the lowest contraction in its rate of growth in 2020, is forecast to continue with much weaker growth rates over the years to 2024.
Arrivals into the Americas are expected to be relatively strong in 2021, with a net increase of 2.9 million visitors relative to the volume generated in 2019. This is expected to be driven largely by intra-regional flows (Americas-to-Americas) which, after a decline of 4.3 million arrivals between 2019 and 2020, are expected to recover rapidly and generate more than 2.5 million arrivals into the Americas relative to 2019. By the end of 2021, total IVAs into the Americas are projected to be close to three percent above the volume received in 2019. Central America is clearly the strongest generator of arrivals between 2019 and 2021, with more than three-quarters of the additional IVAs coming from that source sub-region alone.
The top five source sub-regions for the Americas between 2019 and 2021 generate a sufficient volume of arrivals into the region to offset continued losses from other source sub-regions and markets.All the source regions of Asia are projected to show growth between 2019 and 2021, with Europe and the Americas in particular, adding increases in arrivals of 2.5 million and 1.7 million, respectively over that period. By the end of 2021, Asia is predicted to have visitor arrivals numbering five percent more than in 2019.
The strongest growth in visitor arrivals into Asia is largely out of the Asian source sub-regions, with strong assistance from Central America and East Europe. Together, these top five source sub-regions are predicted to account for 84% of the overall growth in arrivals into Asia between 2019 and 2021. Over three-quarters of that growth volume is projected to come from three of the five Asian source sub-regions.
The Pacific, as a destination region, is likely to have more subdued growth between 2019 and 2021, almost reaching the same volume of IVAs into the region as in 2019. It is not expected to return to growth beyond that however until 2022 when visitor arrivals are expected to increase by 10.5% above those of 2019.