Based on the statistics of the National Tourism Departments in South East Asia in January, the tourism industry of countries in the region has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, they have recorded positive signals. The most obvious is that the tourism recovery rate was all above 50% compared to 2019.
In February 2023, countries maintained their performance compared to the previous month when the number of international arrivals did not change too much.
The number of inbound visitors remains stable
The number of inbound visitors to South East Asian countries in February did not differ much compared to January 2023. The difference in total arrivals to the region (through 6 countries) increased by just over 55,000 arrivals, or 1%.
The rankings had no change in February. Thailand still led with 2,113,550 inbound visitors, over 1% lower than January, although February was the time when China reopened its borders, and Thailand was expected to be the top destination for Chinese tourists.
Following Thailand were again Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, and Cambodia, respectively. While Thailand and Indonesia decreased slightly in international tourists compared to January 2023, the remaining 4 countries saw a slight increase. Vietnam achieved the highest growth rate between January and February with an increase of 61.8 thousand arrivals, equivalent to 7%.
In general, they had not much growth or decline, and were almost unchanged from January despite the peak season for international tourism.
Recovery and tourism target rate
The recovery rate was quite positive. However, the number depends on the status and size of each country’s tourism. Without breakthroughs, it is for reference only. Cambodia recorded the best recovery rate in the region thanks to its open policies. It is likely that Cambodia will continue to perform well, especially in the second quarter as it will host the 32nd SEA Games in May.
Most countries have achieved just 10-20% of the target set this year. Vietnam still had the highest 2023 inbound tourism target rate (22.55%). Thailand and Singapore, the two South East Asian nations welcoming the most inbound visitors, saw the lowest target rate due to the large gap between the growth rate and the target.
Top 3 South East Asian destinations with largest numbers of international arrivals in February 2023:
- Thailand: 2,113,550. The country is still far from the goal (14.19%), and needs more strategies to reach the target of 30 million inbound visitors.
- Singapore: 957,840. However, its target rate is the lowest in Southeast Asia (13.5%).
- Vietnam: 932,969. The 2023 inbound tourism target rate is the highest in the region.
Top 3 South East Asian destinations with highest recovery rate in February 2023:
- Cambodia: 72.72%
- Singapore: 63.86%
- Philippines: 60.77%
The aviation industry in March did not change much compared to the previous month. Indonesia still offered the most seats in flights in the region with 10,007,239 seats. The next were Thailand (6.3 million), Vietnam (5.9 million), Philippines (4.388 million), Malaysia (4.383 million), and Singapore (2.8 million seats).
In March, the busiest domestic flight route was the Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) route again with 1,000,775 seats. Overall, however, up to half of Southeast Asia’s largest domestic routes are in Indonesia.
Singapore still proves its role as the region’s international hub when accounting for 6 of the 10 busiest international routes in February. The Kuala Lumpur – Singapore route was the busiest (402,786 seats).
In general, the international tourism in the region had no changes compared to January. Countries hardly recorded any significant growth in February 2023, although the demand for air travel within and among countries in the region remained acceptable. Therefore, countries need more efforts, and depending on the goals, there should be flexible strategies to further boost the growth this year. Too much expectation on the immediate return of the Chinese market might do more harm than good. Maybe we can see the divergence in growth rate and recovery rate of countries in the region in March and April.