Asia to command global tourism growth post pandemic

FutureMap founder Parag Khanna shares insight at 2021 ILTM APAC Virtual

Asia will lead tourism growth out of the pandemic-era, with integration, innovation and digitisation key areas of renewed focus for the entire travel sector, delegates of ILTM Asia Pacific’s Virtual Forum were told this week.

With Asia representing more than 50% of global GDP (in purchasing power parity), the region will be a central part of the global industry rebound, says Parag Khanna, Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap.

FutureMap is a business that provides data-driven scenario planning and strategic advisory for clients navigating the dynamics of globalisation. Khanna shared his insights on the future of travel in Asia Pacific with 2021 ITLM APAC Virtual’s audience.

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Parag Khanna, Founder & Managing Partner, FutureMap

He said a number of underlying “mega-trends” pre-COVID will be sustained well beyond the pandemic, one of which is the sheer size of the Asian “mega region”.

With China as the central hub, the full reach of Asia extends from Japan in the east to Turkey in the west, and from Russia in the north to Australia in the South.

“Your focus should very much remain on the travellers, consumers in this region, what they are doing in the region and their impact on the world economy, world commerce, world travel and tourism,” Khanna said.

TravelMap graphic showing countries and their GDP in PPP terms | Source: FutureMap/ILTM

Asia will be at the forefront of the travel rebound

“Bouncing back from the pandemic, Asia remains the region that will be in the driver’s seat of global growth,” Khanna said, highlighting that the region has an estimated 4 to 6% per year growth rate, more than double that of the rest of the world.

“What we have witnessed over the last couple of decades, and indeed now during and after the pandemic, is that part of the economic recovery of the region has been the rebound that’s been provided by Asians travelling across borders. So as Asia have brought down their own internal barriers, they have facilitated the movement of people across the region,” Khanna said in his keynote address.

“There are now more than 20 regional airlines that have been spurring this intra-regional connectivity, and indeed over the last decade that rate of growth of travellers has increased more than the global average increase, and the range of Asians traveling outside, so you have a double benefit.”

“Asia will be a central part of the global industry rebound.”

Image credit: Sammy Williams/Pixabay


He said travel and tourism companies looking to plot for 5 years and 10 years into the future – as to where they should locate hotels, and what destinations will be popular; and where people will want to go – should start tracking data now.

“As of 2021 this is the beginning of a post-pandemic era where people’s choices as to where they’re going to travel, where they’re going to go for holiday, for business, what new connections and axis are developing will become further and further entrenched.”

With tourism accounting for nearly 10% of the global economy (valued at US$1.6 trillion in annual spending in 2019), but one of the hardest hit segments by the pandemic, Khanna noted that it is vital  “to make the case that this industry is an essential part of the world economy, and that the stimulus measures government support that is being made today will continue to help this industry to rebound”.

Hong Kong (Credit: Ken Cheung/Unsplash)


He believes the current period represents a “very exciting time” for digitisation of the entire travel industry. A trend that was already underway prior to the pandemic is expected to now surge dramatically.

“Of course when it comes to the travel consumer experience, there was an effort to and will continue to be efforts towards optimisation, maximising the omni channel, helping individual travellers or customers and retail users of various travel sites, portals to import their identity and their preferences across different sites.”

“The more information that people put online, the more it should be better organised, to create more efficiency but also for you to know your customers better.”

“The pandemic gives us an excuse because everyone is planning everything digitally now and the rates of ecommerce, and digital penetration, have gone through the roof during this last one year, so let’s take advantage of it.”

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