By: Edwin Fuller
Founder and President of Laguna Strategic Advisors

Over the next decade, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts Asia’s travel and tourism industry will grow by more than 6% each year—the fastest expansion rate of any region in the world.  By 2020, Asian travelers will account for nearly one-half of all global tourism expenditures and out of the 70 million new jobs the industry will create globally in the next 10 years, about two-thirds (47 million) will be in Asia.

This is a big deal because the numbers are huge.  Just last year, for the first time, more than one billion people in the world crossed their national borders to travel and a large portion of these travelers were Asian.

Here, in the United States, we are expected to welcome a record number of global visitors this year, 69.6 million, and a similar growth pattern of about 4% is expected to continue each year through 2018 when the U.S. Commerce Department predicts that 84.6 million travelers will visit the country from abroad.

In 2012, four out of the top 15 countries accounting for the 67 million international visitors who came to the United States were from Asia.  They were in fourth place, Japan (3.7 million, up 13.8% vs. 2011); seventh place, China (1.5 million, up 35.3% vs. 2011); ninth place, South Korea (1.3 million, up 9.3% vs. 2011) and in 12th place, India (720,000, up 9.2% vs. 2011).

By 2020, WTTC predicts two out of every five travelers globally will be from Asia.

While Asia’s skyrocketing tourism growth—both as a receptor of international tourism and as the world’s largest cohort of global travelers–will continue to be centered in China, India and Southeast Asia and virtually all the Asian countries are participating.  It is the result of national pro-tourism policies locally throughout the region and the region’s rapidly emerging middle class—it’s estimated that China and India together now have about three billion people with the financial where-with-all to travel.

Today, much of Asia’s tourism tends to focus intra-regionally and domestically.  Increasingly, however, these travelers are venturing far afield to the “hot” spots ofEurope, Africa and the Americas.  Here in California, for those of us who make our living in the tourism and hospitality industry, China is poised to become our primary international tourism market.  Last year, Chinese visitors to our state spent $2 billion and everyone is taking notice.

With such phenomenal growth underway, a massive transformation is taking place in the global travel and tourism industry, not only in who is traveling but how to best serve these new travelers.

We must all grapple with how to understand what these new travelers want and how we can better meet their interests and needs.  Our facilities, services and signage need to better reflect how these new visitors are accustomed to using similar facilities and how they usually communicate.  Our global tourism infrastructure needs to be strengthened so that the waves of new tourists coming our way won’t overwhelm the attractions and events that caught their interest in the first place.  We need to better sensitize ourselves to the cultural nuances and understandings that can make the difference between simply visiting a destination and feeling truly welcomed by the local community while there.  Lastly, we’ve got to find and train people-oriented members for our service teams—people who will go that extra mile with a smile and a lot of heart.

Travel and tourism is a people-to-people business.  It can have a positive effect on the social, cultural, educational and economic fabric of the host country and the international visitor and to international relations in the broadest sense.  Often, what you think of the world depends on what you see and experience—let’s all work to ensure the experience is positive.


Originally posted on Forbes