Guest Op-Ed: The Tourism Industry in Southeast Asia

PHOTO: Bangkok Biz News

  Tourism figures and airline flights have drastically increased as most Southeast Asian nations opened their borders and removed travel restrictions such as quarantine and testing requirements. Irrefutably, tourism will be a great contributor to Southeast Asia’s economic recovery and will be heavily dependent on tourists from neighboring countries.

Initiatives such as digitalization projects, high-level official meetings, travel exhibitions, training workshops, and partnerships seek to spur greater collaboration between ASEAN nations, promote Southeast Asia as a world-class tourist destination, and increase tourism standards.

The tourism industry is expected to rebound in Southeast Asian countries this year.

According to suspended Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand is predicted to receive close to 6 million tourists this year and 19 million tourists in 2023. These figures are much higher than last year’s figure of 400,000 foreign tourists.

The significant increase in tourist arrivals will significantly boost Thailand’s tourism-dependent economy given that the travel industry contributed approximately 20% of Thailand’s Gross Domestic Product. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has stipulated a tourism revenue goal of approximately US$65 billion.

Singapore is estimated to receive 4 to 6 million tourist arrivals in 2022, according to the Singapore Tourism Board. The city-state generated approximately S$1.3 billion of tourism revenue during the first 3 months of 2022.

Asian countries Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines contributed 56 percent of visitor arrivals to Singapore.

The Chief Executive of the Singapore Tourism Board reiterates that the increase in tourism arrivals reaffirms Singapore’s allure as a desirable holiday destination.

As the airline industry rebounds and tourist arrivals are on the rise, Southeast Asian airlines will be increasing the frequency of flights.

AirAsia Philippines will be increasing more flights to Southeast Asian countries this month, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. These countries are key target markets for tourists hailing from the Philippines.

Due to inflation and economic uncertainty, travelers prefer short-distance trips to neighboring countries to cut down on travel expenses. Henceforth, the recovery of the tourism industry in Southeast Asia is heavily dependent on travelers from fellow ASEAN countries.

For instance, Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Laos, had 90% of recent hotel bookings made by Thai tourists.

According to Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are key travel markets for Indonesia. Therefore, the ministry has started to market Bali as an ideal holiday destination, to attract tourists from the 3 neighboring countries.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism mentioned that Cambodia had attracted 217,038 Southeast Asian tourists in the first five months of this year, with nearly half of this figure contributed by Vietnamese tourists.

PATA Cambodia chapter chairman believes that Cambodia’s tourism figures contributed by Southeast Asian travelers will continue to surpass tourism visits from other countries.

Southeast Asian nations have started to leverage digitalization to boost connectivity and tourism.

For instance, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Bank of Indonesia are currently developing a QR payment connectivity between Singapore and Indonesia, which will enable consumers in both nations to make transnational electronic transactions and payments more conveniently and effectively.

It is also hoped that this will boost tourism figures as the adoption of local currencies for bilateral transactions is being encouraged and facilitated.

There are several high-level events to discuss about promoting tourism in Southeast Asia, including the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum and the 11th APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting.

Cambodia hosted the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum in January 2022, a platform where tourism experts and officials can gather together to understand tourism trends and best practices and discuss how to promote tourism sustainably in Southeast Asia.

The 11th APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting was held in Bangkok last month and attended by tourism ministers. The ministers deliberated on how to cooperate more closely to boost tourism while leveraging digitalization, human capital development, and sustainability.

At the meeting, the participants also reiterated the importance of tourism in driving economic recovery, while facing challenges such as the Coronavirus pandemic, and rising inflation. It is also hoped that tourism can be inclusive and equal for all races, gender, religions, and age groups.

Other than high-level events, there are also travel exhibitions, training workshops, and campaigns to promote Southeast Asia as an attractive travel destination.

In September 2022, the ‘Let’s Go Malaysia Travel Fair 2022’ was held in Phnom Penh to help publicize and encourage Cambodians to visit Malaysia.

The travel fair was organized by Tourism Malaysia, with booths showcasing tourism-related goods and services from travel agents and airlines, including promotional deals on travel tours and airline tickets.

The Philippine Travel Mart, a tourism exhibition held at the SMX Convention Center Manila, will feature local and global travel packages from airlines, hotels, and travel agencies. These travel packages will cover different categories namely culture, entertainment, health and wellness, and sports.

Other than promoting Philippine cities and culture, the exhibition will also promote neighboring Southeast Asian cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Siem Reap.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism organized the second ASEAN Tourism standards workshop in July 2022, which was attended by tourism-related parties from Cambodia and other Southeast Asian nations.

The workshop seeks to equip participants with the right skill-sets and knowledge in the tourism industry, in order to serve world-class tourism experiences to tourists, while leveraging technology, and adopting sustainability and health measures.

The Pokemon Company collaborated with Scoot Singapore to provide travelers with Pokemon-themed experiences.

There is limited edition pokemon merchandise such as hats and tote bags, that can only be bought on board and via online bookings. The plane’s interior and facilities are also decorated with Pokemon designs.

Tourism experts believe that tourism figures in Southeast Asia will restore to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of this decade. This is music to the ears for tourism-dependent economies, tour guides, and tourism-related entities.

Finally, the pandemic has reiterated how interconnected and interdependent Southeast Asian countries are with one another, with close exchanges of culture, investment, people, goods, and services.

Writer’s name: Ong Bo Yang



I am currently a Masters’s student, majoring in Master of Science in Programme and Project Management at the University of Warwick.

Adam Judd
Mr. Adam Judd is the Co-owner of TPN Media since December 2017. He is originally from Washington D.C., America, but has also lived in Dallas, Sarasota, and Portsmouth. His background is in retail sales, HR, and operations management, and has written about news and Thailand for many years. He has lived in Pattaya for over nine years as a full-time resident, is well known locally and been visiting the country as a regular visitor for over a decade. His full contact information, including office contact information, can be found on our Contact Us page below. Stories please e-mail About Us: Contact Us: