go-eco-phuket, thailand, ecotourism, sustainable dive business, sustainable tourism, ecotravel, ocean activist, ocean cleanup(Blue Ocean Network.com – September 2, 2014) — The biggest draw in global travel remains beach holidays and it’s popularity is booming in spite of the economic malaise in the  world’s economies over the past five years. Far outpacing the economic recovery, global tourism is increasing at over 5% annually.

Southeast Asia enjoys New Visitors

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) tells us that tourism to the Caribbean is almost stagnant, while tourism destinations in Thailand and Southeast Asia have seen a surge in new visitors. Annual growth of tourism  in the Caribbean has been around 2.5% since 2000 and the WTO projects that in coming years that will diminish, falling to 1.7% by 2030. Unwelcome news for beach resorts in that area.

Southeast Asia in contrast is enjoying rising numbers of visitors, in fact tourism jumped 12% in 2013, making this region the fastest growing on the planet. Thailand in particular stands out with growth of 18% in 2013 and a massive increase of 88% in the five years leading up to 2013. Nearly 27 million tourists were drawn to Thailand’s tropical beaches in 2013 which is more than the total for the entire Caribbean area. Thailand now has the happy distinction of being in the world’s top 10 most visited countries.

The beaches of Malaysia and the Philippines also saw increasing tourism, both locations offering a diversity of beautiful islands and good quality resorts. Now that Myanmar’s beaches are available, there is a new and powerful contender for the tourism dollar and a destination that offers immense future growth. There were only 49 resorts and hotels along three beaches on Myanmar’s northwest coast in 20114, but with 800 islands in the Mergui Archipelago its pristine waters offer immense tourism potential.

With long distance travel now cheaper and easier than ever before, traditional travel destinations like the Mediterranean are expected to continue to decline in tourism. Some travel experts believe that the attraction of the new and exotic is what will draw the well healed European tourist to Asian beaches over those of the Mediterranean and Caribbean. With spectacular scenery, diverse culture and friendly people the rise of tourism to Southeast Asia at the expense of more traditional destinations is a trend that seems destined to continue.