Comparing Demand and Supply of Asia’s Tourism Coastlines

Comparing Demand and Supply of Asia’s Tourism Coastlines

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Andrew Leong, Principal

Asia Coastal Tourism Economics


In this post we take a big picture look and compare, between Asian countries, the relationship of land mass, population, GDP, PPP per capita and international tourist arrivals on the length of coastline. The data can be quite revealing especially when you normalize economic, geographic and demographic information against coastline.

Why is this important? Its a comparative measure of demand for coastal development compared to the supply of coastline. We believe there are some coastlines that are better positioned than others. If you are in national tourism planning or coastal development this is important for you to know.

  • In Part A we compare the above measures against total coastline.
  • In Part B we will be introducing a new concept – Net Tourism Coastline – defined later, where we compare the same measures against a more limited coastline.
  • In Part C we will compare coastlines against international tourist arrivals.
  • In Part D we make some observations and explore possible conclusions, for each country, based on these ratios.

Countries in this study: Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vietnam. Coastlines are taken into account up to tropical latitude of 20 degree North which includes the upper bounds of the Indian coastline and northern part of Hainan island. Net Tourism Coastline for the rest of China above Hainan is ignored.

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Part A: Total Coastline Comparison


A1: Country Coastline Comparison

This ranks the countries from shortest to longest coastline in kilometers. No surprise here, Indonesia and the Philippines are at the top. Thailand and Vietnam have almost the same length of coastline. Cambodia, like Singapore and Timor Leste, has very limited coastline.



A2: Land Mass and Population compared to coastline


Land Mass : Coastline Ratio

The land-mass-to-coastline ratio is defined as a country’s land area, in terms of square kilometers, divided by the total length of the coastline, in kilometers. The comparison between countries is what we are looking at and not the actual ratio itself.

A higher ratio can potentially mean that as economic development occurs coastal development can be magnified due to a limited coastline.

Notice all the countries surrounded by water are on the far left of the x-axis. Countries on the far right, with high land mass to coastline ratio, have comparatively limited coastlines.



Population : Coastline Ratio

The population-to-coastline ratio is defined as a country’s population divided by its total coastline, in kilometers. Countries on the left have low population compared to length of coastline and countries on the right have high population compared to the length of coastline. Notice that India’s ratio is almost double China’s.

A higher ratio can mean that there’s a bigger local population to support coastal development. While a lower ratio means the opposite and requires higher international arrivals to support coastal tourism development.



A3: GDP and PPP per capita compared to coastline

Here we examine the standard national economic indicators against coastline. If GDP represents the size of economy it also indicates the capacity of the country’s financial system to fund tourism development.

PPP per capita on the other hand determines the purchasing power of the local population. This can be an indicator of the type and size of coastal development that’s appropriate for the local market.


GDP : Coastline Ratio

The GDP-to-coastline ratio is defined as a country’s GDP divided by the total length of its coastline. Countries on the left of the chart have low ratios (either due to low GDP or long coastline), countries on the right have high ratios (due to high GDP over a short coastline).


PPP per capita : Coastline Ratio

The PPP-per-capita-to-coastline ratio is defined as the PPP per capita divided by a country’s total coastline. Countries on the left of the chart have low ratios due to a low PPP per capita spread over an extensive coastline. Countries on the right have a high PPP per capita spread over a limited coastline.



Coastal Dining
Waterfront dining, Singapore



Part B: Net Tourism Coastline

While a country’s total coastline comparison may be revealing, an even more relevant measure for our purposes is – Net Tourism Coastline (NTCL) – defined as the coastline patronized by local or international tourist. NTCL also includes locations earmarked for tourism but have yet to be developed. In the NTCL we leave out commercial coastline (ports, industrial areas, etc), protected coastal environments and undeveloped coastline. In this Part B, we compare the NTCL against GDP, PPP and population.

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See also related :

Myanmar: How will economic growth impact coastal tourism development?


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