Asian nations receive an enormous economic boost from tourists, but profitability can come at the cost of overrun streets, environmental degradation, and higher expenses for locals.
Asia is hot right now. Tourists are flooding out of China and buying up luxury goods around the world as Myanmar opens its gates to MasterCard, Hilton, and an influx of travelers. Asian visitors are leaving their countries to explore neighboring nations in never-before-seen numbers and Western tourists still flock to Asian beaches and cities.
The entire Asia and Pacific region is expected to have attracted 350 million inbound visitors in 2012, which is 5 percent more than the year earlier, according to data released by the Pacific Asia Travel Association. This is the third year in a row that the number of foreign arrivals has grown in the region.
Across the entire Asia Pacific region, Myanmar, Cambodia, Japan, Lao PDR, andTaiwan saw the greatest increases in tourism with arrivals increasing 20 percent or more year-over-year.
In Northeast Asia, Japan’s visitor arrivals increased the most drastically, 35 percent, as the country makes a rebound from the tsunami of 2011. Tokyo is currently bidding to host the 2020 Olympics, which would significantly increase its tourism profile in the coming decade.
Myanmar saw a shocking 52 percent increase in arrivals and crossed the one million milestone as the country opened its borders for the first time in decades. Cambodia, Lao PRD, and Taiwan reported growth increases of 24, 22, and 20 percent respectively.
Although all eyes have been on China for the heavy stream of tourists coming out of the country, fewer foreign visitors have actually planned trip to China. In 2012, the country welcomed three million fewer international arrivals than in 2011.
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Photo credit: The Saturday market by the Lay Myo River in Myanmar. Rafat Ali