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Eastern promise is in the air


One hundred million. It’s a big number and since I heard it mentioned at the Routes Asia aviation forum in Manila this month, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. According to Iata, this is the number of passengers that are expected to enter the Asia-Pacific aviation market each year for the next 20 years. It’s a colossal amount.


Naturally this figure comes with the usual caveats concerning the need to ensure the infrastructure is there to cope with this massive growth, while presumably another economic downturn would also hamper such an increase. But it is a stark reminder of just how much Asia is set to change the global market within the next decade.


Initially much of the travel within this region will be short-haul, but how long before these travellers start looking west and want more than just cultural tours of European cities? Mediterranean beaches could have the same exotic allure for the eastern market as the Koh Samui coastline has for westerners. In which case the current squeeze on western Med capacity and ensuing price rises may come to be seen as a golden memory.


Meanwhile, will travel companies operating in the UK come to view Europe as a minor distraction compared with the growing and apparently abundant riches available by penetrating the Asian market? Both Princess and NCL have commissioned the building of ships primarily to meet the demands of the Chinese market and will be sending them direct to the region upon their launch.


Elsewhere, I am sure operators must be considering the opportunities in the region, while companies such as Wendy Wu Tours and InsideAsia Tours, which already have strong links with the area, will likely be considering how they can benefit from this increased bounty.


In short, the 100 million mark is more than just a number. It represents a growing awareness that the fundamental thinking behind the country’s travel industry is about to be pulled from under everyone’s feet. All companies need to do now is wonder how best they can stay standing when, not if, this seismic shift happens.


Edward Robertson
Editor, Routes News


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