AFTA view

Jayson Westbury, chief executive, AFTA

2036 seems like a long way away. It’s 20 years into the future and, like the last 20 years, plenty will take place in the travel industry. It’s likely however that the next two decades will bring greater change, more intimate connectivity with consumers and without question a big shift in the location of the wealth by population.

In fact, IATA predicts the travelling passenger market size to change very significantly between 2016 and 2036. Out of the current top 10 largest passenger markets, Italy and France will be removed and into the top 10 will be Turkey and Thailand. The rest of the current top 10 passenger markets (being China, USA, UK, Japan, Spain, Germany, India and Indonesia) move rankings in the top 10 but remain on the list.

The data (sourced from the latest IATA Airlines International publication issue 71), which outlines the largest passenger markets ranked by passenger numbers from and within each country, is compelling reading.

Interesting because it shows clearly where the passenger shift is moving to and no question it is in Australia’s backyard. With Turkey and Thailand noted as two emerging top 10 markets, it would seem clever for any travel business in Australia that has offshore desires to be thinking about those very markets.

The curious thing about this is that the passenger ranking data includes inbound and outbound passenger counts. Clearly more of us are likely to be going to those places as well.

The big switch is at the top of the list, from USA (top passenger market in 2016) to China (top ranked by 2022 according to the report). That means this crucial pivot point will be reached in just four years from now.

Is it any wonder China is fast becoming the one travel and tourism market that everyone wants to be a part of? Australia is well placed to get our share. We have the political settings right to enable Australian travel businesses to do business in China relatively easily. We have an excellent marketing campaign being led by Tourism Australia for the inbound market to continue to grow and find new areas of China from which to draw. And without question we enjoy excellent aviation links with China.

The one thing the travel industry does need to do is have a more open mind to sending Australians to China. We are doing well for a small nation, with around 50% more people coming to Australia from China than Australians going to China. For China, the opportunities are endless and as a destination there is so much to see and do.

So as you plan your 2018 it is important to think beyond what is happening today and consider the next four years and even perhaps the next 20, as things are going to change and we need to be ready, willing and able to change at the same pace.