Data from National Tourism Departments in South East Asia in March 2023 showed better signals over the previous two months. In general, there was an increase in inbound tourists compared to January and February, except for a slight decrease in Vietnam (Cambodia hasn’t updated). The growth rate of international visitors of the whole region in March increased by nearly 5 times compared to February.
The growth rate of inbound tourists better improves
Considering over 5 countries including Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia, the total number of international arrivals in March reached 5,420,067, an increase of 247,745 arrivals (equivalent to about 4.79%) compared to February. Previously, the number of visitors to Southeast Asian countries in February increased by only 1% compared to January. This is a quite good signal for the region’s tourism industry.
Thailand maintained its leading position in the top most visited destination in SEA with 2,219,040 foreign visitors in March, double higher than Singapore in the second place (118%), and triple higher than the third rank – Vietnam (149%).
However, regarding the number of international arrivals in March 2023, Vietnam is the only destination in the region to see a drop in total international arrivals (895,425 arrivals), down 4% compared to February 2023. Indonesia led in growth between February and March with an increase of 15.39%, followed by Singapore and Thailand.
Recovery and tourism target rate
The “champion” in recovery rate in the previous months, Cambodia, has not yet updated the data for March. Therefore, the Philippines temporarily led South East Asia in terms of recovery rate over the same period in 2019 (66.59%), closely followed by Singapore (65.38%) and Thailand (63.79%). After the 32nd SEA Games event, the host nation Cambodia is expected to make a significant mark on the number of inbound visitors in the coming months.
The 2023 target rate in the region was ranging from 20% to less than 34%. Vietnam still achieved the highest rate as of March (33.74%). Singapore continued to be the country with the lowest target rate (20.78%).
Top 3 South East Asian destinations with largest numbers of international arrivals in March 2023:
- Thailand: 2,219,040. Following a slight decrease in February, the number of international arrivals to Thailand in March increased by nearly 5%.
- Singapore: 1,020,000. The target rate of the country was still the lowest (20.78%).
- Vietnam: 895,425. Despite having the highest target rate and among the top 3 Southeast Asian countries to receive the most inbound visitors in Q1, Vietnam was the only destination to record a decrease.
Top 3 South East Asian destinations with highest recovery rate in March 2023:
- The Philippines: 66.59%
- Singapore: 65.38%
- Thailand: 63.79%
Regarding aviation, the order of destinations with the highest seat capacity on flights to and from the region has not changed throughout 4 months. According to OAG, in April, Indonesia kept the first rank with 10,148,070 seats, followed by Thailand (6,047,377 seats), Vietnam (5,792,606), Philippines (4,339,133), Malaysia (4,274,854), and Singapore (2,875,056).
Hanoi – HCMC continued to be the busiest Domestic flight route in April with 917,814 seats (decreased by -9.04% compared to the previous month). The second place was the Jakarta – Bali route again (639,101 seats, increased by 16.53%). The third place changed. It was the Jakarta – Sumatera Utara route (516,624 seats) to replace Jakarta – South Sulawesi.
In the top 10 busiest International routes, Singapore, the international air hub of Southeast Asia, appeared 7 times, while occupying the top 3. The Kuala Lumpur – Singapore route was the busiest route in April with 409,946 seats, followed by the Jakarta – Singapore and Bangkok – Singapore routes.
In conclusion, in March 2023, South East Asia’s tourism performance was brighter when the growth rate of international arrivals increased by nearly 5 times in February. Nevertheless, the target rate is generally not very high (between 20-34%). According to UNWTO, in Q1, despite good signs, the Asia-Pacific region is still the region with the slowest tourism recovery pace in the world (54% of 2019 levels). The growth of nations in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to be better, especially with the return of China, the main source market of many countries. In addition, the peak season in the summer will also boost the region’s tourism recovery rate. However, as previously mentioned, expecting too much on a country or peak season without the right approach is not a good idea, especially in 2023, the final phase of recovery. Along with festivals and upcoming summer, April-May will see more divergence in tourism performance through growth rates and how each country reaches the target.