Backpacker Trails in Asia Pacific - November 2011
Thirty-five years ago, two British adventurers, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, published a cheap-and-cheerful guidebook based on their travels, called Across Asia on the Cheap. It proved so successful that two years later their second title, South-East Asia on a shoestring, became – and remains – a standard text for budget travellers to the region. In essence, those two titles recognised the arrival of low-cost backpacking as an established tourism genre, and catalysed the growth of a multi-million-dollar media and retail industry focused on low-cost, long-duration travel – or ‘backpacking’.
The choice of Asia for launching a travel publishing endeavour was emblematic of the time. In the late 1960s and 1970s, independent and free-spirited travellers whose luggage was contained in easy-to-carry backpacks were increasingly drawn to the Asia-Pacific region. They travelled through nations still finding their way in an uncertain post-colonial world of self-expression and self-government. A potent combination of mystical Eastern philosophies and cuisines plus spectacular landscapes enriched by ancient temples, soaring mountain ranges, untouched beaches and pristine rainforests enchanted young travellers from the affluent nations of Europe and North America.
This report starts with a brief history of the evolution of backpacker travel across Asia Pacific, followed by the key factors impacting its current and future development. Destination summaries are divided into three sections: established destinations, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand; the emerging nations of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka and Vietnam; and places traditionally less visited by backpackers, such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Analysis is also provided of the established backpacker gateway entry/exit hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore, and alternative entranceways such as Bangkok in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Finally, commentary is provided on established and emerging backpacker trails, plus insight into the future of the Asia-Pacific backpacking consumer and the budget travel economy that sustains them.
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