To anyone that has made a trip to Asia in the last several years, the amount of growth and commercialization is wildly apparent. For instance, when arriving in a rapidly developing country such as Thailand, one can actually feel the excitement of growth. Factories and shopping malls are popping up all over the place. New hotels and other forms of accommodation are appearing almost overnight in many of the most popular areas. Emerging from the economic slumps of the late 1990s/2000s, and the staggering decline of international tourism following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, the Asia Pacific region is staging a massive comeback in terms of tourism.
Throughout this article, we’ll place a focus on two countries; Thailand and Japan. With nearly 2,682 miles (4,316 km) between them, they can seem almost like completely different worlds. While this is true, much common ground can be found by observing how the powerful effect of the tourism industry affects these two nations.
It is no secret that the tourism industry is absolutely booming in Thailand. By 2015, the “Land of Smiles” has become Asia Pacific’s most popular tourist destination, with over 30 million foreign visitors. Why the strong pull toward Thailand? The draw is no mystery; it can be explained by an increase of aggressive tourism ad campaigns, political stability, a straightforward visa process, and of course, the sheer charm of the country and its inhabitants.
This tourism boom in Thailand is, of course, not without its compilations. It seems that not even the Thai government expected this massive boom of tourism to take place in the last few years. The government is barely able to keep up with the influx of tourists, as their infrastructure becomes heavily taxed. Based on 2015 figures provided by the Thailand Board of Investment, both the Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports saw a 15.6 percent increase in air traffic from the previous year. This growth does not seem to be slowing. With such a massive increase in the use of their public infrastructure (especially their already nearly antique trains), Thailand is facing some challenges related to this tourism boom.
In recent years, Japan has seen an absolutely massive increase in foreign visitors coming to its shores. With data provided by the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2015 Ranking, Japan has gone from the 25th to the 9th most visited country in the world (out of 141 countries). The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) presents some startling figures; the number of tourists coming to Japan has increased by 47.1 percent (19.7 million visitors) in 2015. This sudden growth is taking Japan and its people by storm.
Japan has the reputation of an incredibly advanced country, with top-notch infrastructure, technology, and accommodation, among other things. This draws many Chinese and Western visitors (mainly from the US). This great influx of English-speaking tourists is quite literally changing the face of Japan. In comparison to other heavily visited countries around Asia, Japan stands out as having the poorest overall level of English language proficiency. While visiting and taking tours of Japan, one gets a feeling that the Japanese are very aware of this, and are doing what they can to raise their English comprehension level; especially with the approaching 2020 Olympic games to be held in Tokyo. Japanese/English bi-language signs are becoming commonplace in Japan’s cities, both large and small.
The future of tourism in Asia
While no one can predict the future, it can be safely said that the tourism industry across Asia is definitely not slowing down. In many countries, it is growing at an alarming rate, and in many cases even surpassing government expectations. The only great certainty is that the influx of foreign visitors to these countries will leave an indelible mark on the face of these nations.
By: Vincent Stokes