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The unrealised potential of tourism to the UK Britain from Asia has been highlighted to prime minister David Cameron by group travel provider Kuoni Travel Experts.
The heart of this potential of the ten members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – lies in the middle class, both as consumers and as a source of highly educated, high-productivity labour, according to the company.
Together the countries account for 600 million people with a combined GDP of $2.1 trillion. GDP growth is robust, driven largely by domestic consumption and growing intra-regional trade.
But group travellers from the region have made France, Italy and Switzerland their most popular destinations in Europe, ahead of the UK in fifth place behind Germany. The UK has only a 5% share of group travel out of ASEAN nations compared to France’s 22%.
Organised by UKinbound and VisitBritain in Cameron’s Witney constituency in Oxfordshire, the meeting earlier this month highlighted the importance of inbound tourism and regional development, with the aim of attracting more international visitors who are looking beyond London for their travels.
Discussion also centred on opportunities for growth and the challenge the UK might face from rival destinations with a presence in ASEAN markets.
Group travel is a popular option in many Asian countries – particularly newer, fast-growing ones like those in the ASEAN region – as it gives travellers the reassurance and security of native language tour guides, pre-planned meals and rooms in hotels that are best able to meet their needs.
Rob Andrew, vice president of inbound UK for the Kuoni business, said: “Upgraded infrastructure coupled with political and legislative commitment will help drive trade links, both within the ASEAN region but also with the rest of the world in coming years.
“This will in turn drive the growth of potentially millions of middle class consumers with a greater desire and ability to travel.
“VisitBritain’s GREAT campaign has been and remains a success story that it should rightly be proud of.
“Unfortunately, at present, the agency can only afford to focus its efforts on Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore as ‘nurture markets’ and showcases its destinations in none of the other seven countries.
“As the UK’s national tourism marketing agency undergoes triennial and comprehensive spending reviews, there is a great opportunity for the UK government to think in the longer term and invest strategically today to secure the future potential of rapidly growing ASEAN markets.”
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