The Philippines has taken over Thailand as the largest tourism economy in Southeast Asia, and it took a pandemic for the country to race past its rival in the region in terms of travel.
The Philippines now holds the largest travel economy in Southeast Asia after generating $52.8 billion in tourism revenue last year, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
Although this was a decline from the $90 billion earned in 2019, it was enough for the country to take over Southeast Asia in terms of tourism value based on GDP contribution.
Thailand, which the Philippines used to trail in the region, saw its tourism revenue decline by more than 60 percent to $41.7 billion, from $106.5 billion in 2019. The Thai government looks to reopen its borders to foreign nationals within the year to recover from this slump.
China, where the first strain of COVID-19 was detected, weathered the contagion and managed to stay ahead of the pack in Asia with $667.2 billion.
Japan’s tourism registered $234.9 billion to its economy, while India accumulated $121.9 billion, Saudi Arabia, $48.5 billion and South Korea, $39.9 billion.
The United States, the leading destination worldwide, suffered a plunge of roughly 41 percent to $1.1 trillion, from $1.86 trillion, but kept its lead against China, Japan, Germany ($208.8 billion) and Italy ($132.2 billion).
Estimates by the WTTC put global tourism losses at $4.5 trillion last year, as travel restrictions put in place by governments hindered people from moving both domestic and abroad. Worse, the sector had to shred over 62 million workers throughout 2020.