ACI Asia-Pacific has found that China’s tougher border measures and Japan’s cautious approach towards relaxation of inbound travel restrictions could displace Asia-Pacific as the world’s largest civil aviation market in 2022.
The ACI Asia-Pacific forecast indicated that the Asia-Pacific region is estimated to finish second, behind Europe in terms of passenger share, and at a comparable level with North America. According to the organization, passenger traffic will only recover by about 55% by the end of 2022 compared to levels prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is in contrast to other regions where recovery is higher, and indeed estimated to be approximately between 70% and 80%. In 2019, 3.38 billion passengers traveled by air in Asia-Pacific, representing 37% of the global volume of 9.16 billion.
In 2020, the region witnessed only 1.57 billion passengers, an unprecedented 53% crash in traffic owing to Covid-19 restrictions across the globe. However, Asia-Pacific dominated the traffic share by contributing 44% to the global traffic of 3.6 billion. Home to several large domestic markets, the region demonstrated sensible resilience in air traffic.
In 2021, 1.5 billion people traveled by air in Asia-Pacific, experiencing a slight decline by 4% versus 2020, but was still the leading region accounting for 33% of 4.6 billion global passengers.
Although the latest ACI forecast predicts 22% growth for 2022 over 2021, the share of passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific is likely to drop to second globally, with an estimated traffic of 1.84 billion passengers – a decline of 45% compared to 2019.
In response, ACI Asia-Pacific has written a letter, co-signed by ACI World and World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), urging the Prime Minister of Japan to remove all restrictions and restore the travel privileges to enable smooth recovery of the industry in the region. The organization considered this reform particularly urgent in view of the way economies are still battling geopolitical instability in Eastern Europe and its subsequent impact on global macroeconomics, including high inflation and rising energy prices.
Stefano Baronci, director general of ACI Asia-Pacific said, “The traffic in the region will not be able to fully recover to 2019 levels unless all countries keep their borders open to facilitate freedom of movement. China and Japan – one of the largest contributors to the regions overall traffic – have been slow in lifting travel and Covid-19 restrictions. We are urging states to take a measured approach to facilitate the recovery in a more sustainable manner and without causing significant impact on their healthcare system. Accelerating the recovery will need a whole of industry and government support, especially in view of an increasingly challenging macroeconomic scenario. There are positive signs emerging from Japan where the government is considering on lifting of daily arrival caps to spur tourism to revive their economy, and it will benefit the industry to a greater extent. We hope to see positive outcome in the very near future.