Australia voted top holiday spot despite global slump

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Australia has been voted the most coveted destination by travelers in a global survey that also showed two-thirds of people were reviewing their holiday plans because of the global economic crisis.

A ferry aproaches Sydney's central business district February 3, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Asia Pacific was named the number-one region for those intending to travel overseas this year and next in the survey, commissioned by credit card firm Visa and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and which polled over 5,500 people.

Nearly half picked Australia, which is expecting the number of foreign visitors to fall to their lowest level in two decades this year, as a place to visit, a likely boost for a multi-million dollar tourist campaign launched late last year.

Those surveyed voted Japan as the second most likely destination for their next holiday, followed by Hong Kong, which garnered 35 percent of votes.

“That Asia Pacific was named the leading global leisure travel region reinforces the vital role this industry fills in the regional economy,” said Meranda Chan, a Visa country manager and PATA board director.

“While the global economic situation will impact tourism, it is unlikely to bring travel to a standstill. What our survey has shown is that travelers will be more creative in their selection of destinations,” she said in a statement.

The survey was conducted last August in 11 key markets for Asia Pacific tourism -- Australia, China, Taiwan, France, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the United States and Britain -- and appears to bode well for an industry that has been hit by the global belt-tightening caused by the economic slowdown.

While most of the tourists to Asia-Pacific destinations were already living in the region, the survey showed that some 40 percent of Americans and 32 percent from France said they would visit in 2009 or 2010.

According to PATA, international arrivals to Asia-Pacific destinations grew 2.6 percent in 2008, despite the economic slowdown which reined in arrivals in the second half of the year. The industry accounts for more than 5.5 percent of Asia’s total GDP.

Just over a third of overall respondents said they would not change their travel plans for this year, despite the financial crisis, but the majority revealed they would either look for cheaper alternatives, travel within their own country or postpone any trips.

Among those surveyed, Australians, Britons, Singaporeans, Indians, French and Americans were the least likely to let economic concerns keep them for traveling, while Taiwanese, Koreans, Japanese, Hong Kongers and Chinese were the most likely to change their plans.

Editing by Ian Geoghegan