Just as the pandemic reordered the popularity of travel destinations, its ending opens the possibility that destinations may regain their former positions. Consider Tokyo, which ranked as the ninth most popular destination globally in 2019, according to the VISIT platform. Border closures and other measures to control the pandemic took their toll, Tokyo in 2022 saw its global rank fall to 93 and recovered only 16 percent of its 2019 visitor volumes. In contrast, Mecca, which reopened earlier and has benefited from a government push to promote tourism, has risen to become the thirteenth most visited city, up from 44th in 2019. Mecca, like other international destinations such as Dubai and London, benefited from the Asia Pacific border restrictions in 2022, as travelers from Asia Pacific diverted their travel from closed destinations to more open ones outside of the region. Intra-regional travel recovery in Asia Pacific excluding Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau stood at only 35 percent of its 2019 level in 2022; in contrast, travel between Asia Pacific and other regions reached 69 percent. Another reason could be that as cities in Europe and the Middle East re-opened earlier, the travel infrastructure was already in place, making travel easier.
Similarly, on an intra-regional basis, Bali’s popularity in Asia as a travel destination increased sharply, rising from an overall rank within Asia Pacific of seventh in 2019 to third in 2022. It has also achieved a recovery rate of 48 percent in 2022, which is higher than most other Asia Pacific cities, including Phuket (32 percent recovered), another popular beach destination. Visitor arrivals to Bali from Europe and North America recovered by at least 49 percent. The travel recovery is rather impressive given that Indonesia only gradually relaxed its entry requirements from the end of Q1-2022. Bali’s outperformance can be partly attributed to the increase in flexible work arrangements, whereby people travel to Bali to work remotely. The lower cost of living and scenic views make Bali an attractive destination to work and play. Another reason could be the gradual return of business travel to Bali, with conferences such as the G20 Leaders Summit being held there.