|▲ Speaking ahead of the ITOP Forum, Mario Hardy said it is time for Jeju to look beyond China.
Diversity is key if Jeju is to retain its place as a top Asian holiday destination, a meeting of tourism experts will be told.
The message is at the heart of a keynote address to be given by the boss of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) to members of the Inter-Islands Tourism Policy Forum (ITOP), which meets on Jeju in October.
Mario Hardy, PATA chief executive officer, will tell ITOP members that Jeju’s tourism industry must look beyond China to other outbound markets.
Speaking to The Jeju Weekly ahead of the forum, Hardy said: “A diversification of source market is key to its long-term sustainability.”
“It needs to promote itself outside of its key current source markets and further develop direct air connectivity from other Asian gateway cities.”
As head of PATA, Hardy is a leading voice in travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region.
The Association aims to promote the responsible development of the industry by providing data and insights for member organisations, such as government and tourism bodies, airlines, airports and cruise lines.
One of Hardy’s roles at the forum, which runs Oct 5 to 8, is to share PATA’s knowledge and know-how with ITOP members to help them tackle pressing issues in the tourism industry.
One such issue facing Korea is the need to tap into additional outbound markets.
Last year some 43.9 percent of tourists to the country were from China, compared to 15.8 percent from Japan, 5.5 percent from the US, 4.6 percent from Taiwan and 4 percent from Hong Kong.
The growing middle class in China is driving this growth, says Hardy, facilitated by the number of direct flights to Chinese cities. He adds that he doesn’t expect the recent economic slowdown to change this long-term trend.
“The reality is that the average disposable income in China is increasing by 10 percent year on year, which provides increasing buying power to the population. Should the situation be prolonged, we might see a small slowdown in growth.”
But why does an influx in holiday-makers from China matter?
“It matters the day there is a crisis in China, regardless if it is economic, political or other,” warns Hardy.
Fundamental to future tourism development, says Hardy, is more direct flights to gateway Asian cities to ensure “better resilience in a time of crisis.”
To increase marketing penetration and boost visitor numbers, PATA also stresses the need to work with diverse tour operators and utilize both traditional and social media.
Hardy said that diversity is crucial to sustainable growth, but residents should be aware of all the consequences of accelerated tourism development.
“Jeju needs to diversify its product offering and ensure that tourism is well spread across the island and not only contained in a small area.”
“It needs to be a coordinated effort from the municipality and in consultation with its residents [so they] understand the benefits that tourism can bring to them as well as the risks.”
A tourism master plan at the municipal level is needed, he says, integrating roads, waste, water and electricity.
“Tourism cannot be developed in isolation - it requires well-coordinated efforts between all parties affected by tourism development.”
The Inter-Islands Tourism Policy Forum (ITOP) opens Oct 5 at the Kensington Jeju Hotel, Jeju City.