The Pacific Asia Travel Association released preliminary figures for 2009 tourism March 4, saying that the year ended on a better note than expected.
Although the Association said that it expected a three percent overall decline in the number of visitors to the region during 2009, it described the figures as "much improved" from the drastic six percent fall seen for the first six months.
From July to December, visitor arrivals actually grew one percent year on year.
"We ended the year on a positive note with international visitor arrivals to Asia Pacific shores growing by four percent year-on-year in December,' said PATA's Kris Lim. "This is by far the largest monthly growth in 2009."
Southeast Asia was the only region to post an overall rise in visitor numbers, particularly to Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia. Whilst Indonesia and Cambodia also posted marginally positive figures, tourism to Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam fell.
Arrivals to Northeast Asia fell by two percent in 2009, driven by a 19 percent fall in Japan. Travel to China also fell by three percent. Taiwan and Korea, however, showed 14 and 13 percent rises respectively.
Whilst India posted a three percent fall across 2009 and failed to strongly recover in the final six months, arrivals grew strongly for Sri Lanka and Nepal resulting in full-year gains for those destinations.
PATA said that overall, arrivals fell more sharply due to SARS in 2003, but warned that the recovery would take time. Overall though, Lim remains cautiously optimistic about the Asia Pacific region:
"We are better placed now than six months ago as the economic climate continues to improve. The IMF is now expecting stronger growth of 3.9 percent for the world's economy this year, with ‘developing Asia' leading the way at 8.4 percent."