Southeast Asia has fast become a tourist hotspot. The region alone generates huge amounts of income from the tourism industry. In this way, many countries across the Southeast Asia region depend on tourism to stimulate their newly emerging economies. Thailand stands in the foreground as the tourism leader of the Southeast Asia region, and has experienced millions of tourist arrivals. The likes of Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines have all demonstrated GDP growth and revenue due to the tourism industry. Not only does the industry provide monetary value to many countries, but it has made a significant contribution to employment. In order to encourage and maintain their growing levels of tourism, many Asia Pacific countries have initiated programs in order to keep the influx of both domestic and international tourists high. Easier visa attainment and the establishment of low-cost airlines are just some of the ways Southeast Asia has attempted to stimulate its tourism industry.
Asia Pacific has both a strong international and domestic tourism market. Throughout recent years, in connection with developing economies there has been an emergence of a growing middle class. Therefore, citizens of the Asia Pacific region have higher levels of disposable income which could theoretically be used to travel. Thus, the Asia Pacific region has experienced increased growth of domestic tourist arrivals. Domestic tourism expenditure was especially prominent in 2019, in which it reached significantly high levels.
However, unprecedented events have led to huge blows to the tourism sectors throughout the entire Asia Pacific region. The outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan in December 2019 stunted tourist arrivals. Chinese tourists accounted for over 60 million of the tourist arrivals in 2018. Thus, many countries, such as Thailand, who are dependent on Chinese tourism have been impacted greatly. During this period of instability, it was thought that in order for Asia Pacific to maintain a strong hold on the tourism market, the region must rebalance its tourism industry so that it is not heavily reliant on Chinese tourism. Alongside unanticipated societal problems, the Asia Pacific region has faced challenges with its environmental sustainability. Therefore, if the region is to continue to excel in both international and domestic tourism, it may need to adapt its approach to environmentally sustainable travel.