Asian women and senior citizens are driving growth in international tourism

April 30, 2013
Obsession
How We Buy
April 30, 2013

Chinese tourists get a lot of attention these days. But beyond their spending, large numbers, and idiosyncratic habits, they also represent a new class of globetrotters.

As of last year, there are more tourists overall traveling abroad than ever before, at 1.04 billion according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Many of these new tourists are visiting—as well as coming from—emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe.

The number of tourists traveling internationally grew 4% in 2012, with most growth in Asia Pacific.

International tourism, measured by the number of arrivals of foreign tourists in a country, grew 4% in 2012.

While Europe is still the most visited region in the world, Asia saw the biggest increase in international visits of any region last year, according to the UNWTO. Much of that growth is from travelers within the region who are becoming wealthy enough to vacation beyond their borders.

And two key demographics, according to a February report by market research firm Frost & Sullivan, are women traveling for business and travelers above the age of 65. Women travelers in seven East Asian countries—who number around 4.5 million in 2011—should increase some 400% (pdf, p. 10) by 2030 as more women take on executive-level positions that require travel. This map shows the expected increase, in millions, of older travelers from Asian countries:

Tap image to zoom
Generation Senior Citizen goes abroad.

Naturally, countries are vying for the cash these Asian tourists are willing to spend on hotels, shopping and excursions. Aside from China, which spent more than any other country on tourism in 2012, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines also saw their citizens’ overseas spending on tourism jump by double digits. Latvia’s foreign minister has tried to woo Malaysian tourists by extolling the “joys of winter” that can’t be experienced in hot Southeast Asia, while Japan has sent tourism representatives to the country.

Emerging markets are becoming a key part of the global tourism industry. The International Air Travel Association estimates Asia will see the highest profit margin growth of any region, a sign the global airline industry’s “center of gravity” is moving to emerging markets. Other growing markets include Venezuela, Poland, and Saudi Arabia which also saw double-digit growth in tourism spending last year;  Russia and Brazil are among the top 10 contributors to global tourism spending.

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