ITB 2019

South East Asia sets new records

All smiles on the Thai stand at ITB.
Christian Wyrwa/Gregor Zielke
All smiles on the Thai stand at ITB.

South East Asia is celebrating at ITB this year after destinations across the region clocked up new visitor records. Tourism chiefs are now stepping up long-running campaigns to persuade holidaymakers to head out of the big resorts and explore unfamiliar parts of their countries.

Thailand kept up its recent consistent growth by welcoming 38 million international tourists in 2018, including 890,000 from Germany. Tourism board chief Yuthasask Supasorn said the kingdom wants to promote tours to lesser-known provinces, especially in the north and east. New domestic flights from Bangkok Airways will help improve connections within the country.
 
Cuisine is another hot topic for Thailand this year after several restaurants in Bangkok, Phuket and Phang-Na gained Michelin stars. Cycling holidays and sports events such as the Bangkok Marathon are also expected to draw visitors.

The Philippines hit the headlines in 2018 by closing the popular island of Boracay for six months to relieve the environmental impact of large numbers of tourists. The decision has made the island nation “a pioneer in environmental protection”, according to Marie Tan, COO of the country’s tourism authority.

The country hopes to diversify its visitor base by attracting more luxury holidaymakers as well as conference business. “We want to strengthen quality tourism,” Tan said. Initiatives include travel experiences involving the local population. “This kind of holiday is especially popular among German customers,” she added.

Elsewhere, Indonesia and Vietnam have recorded double-digit growth several years in a row, while Singapore has improved less spectacularly but steadily. Neighbour Malaysia is hoping to profit from its status as ITB partner country this year to speed up tourism growth after a patchy performance since 2015.

Myanmar is also a mixed picture after its image was hit by criticism of treatment of its Rohingya minority. Many Germans have boycotted the destination, prompting a 28 per cent slump in 2018 to 29,000 arrivals. Yet Myanmar grew overall, with a three per cent rise to 3.4 million international arrivals.

Meanwhile, Cambodia welcomed an estimated 6.2 million tourists in 2018, up 11 per cent.
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