Asia’s ‘Golden Triangle’ for emerging resort development?

Asia’s ‘Golden Triangle’ for emerging resort development?

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Emerging destinations with greatest market access

Where are emerging growth areas for resort development in view of the epic growth of the Asian middle class? The tourism industry recognizes the opportunities but let’s take it a step further and ask: Are there prime locations for emerging resort development? Rather than following the herd we attempt to point out other possible less obvious destinations by flight-time-coverage analysis.

Urban centers within 3 hour flight time

Phuket flight time distance
2000km radius from Phuket. Approximately 3 hours flight time.

It’s common to see destination or project marketing brochures with flight time coverage centered on the destination. For example, the image on the right shows the source markets within a 3 hours flight from Phuket.

In this post we are going to flip this around and ask: Where are the coastal destinations 3 hours flight time away from major emerging middle class Asian urban centers. This enables us to find potential emerging pockets of development that offers the most coverage from urban growth centers that are 3 hours away. The darkest shade of blue in the interactive Google Map above is where most overlap occurs in this 3 hour flight time from major urban centers.

Why 3 hours?

Most of Asian tourism travel will be intra-regional short-haul market – 4 to 5 day average length of stay as well as the short weekend getaway. 3 hours flight time is not unreasonable. If we double the flight time the longer distance covers most of our area of interest anyway and not helpful in identifying emerging pockets of opportunity.

Emerging urban centers covered

Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Yangon, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Manila, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing.

Excludes more developed urban centers

We have excluded Japan, Korea, Hongkong, Singapore, Australia as source markets as urban centers are fairly established already. We want to look at how the impact of emerging source markets will have on new destination development.


Emerging destination & resort development ‘Golden Triangle’

asia resort development golden triangle
Asia’s emerging coastal resort development ‘Golden Triangle’

Looking at the map at the top of this post its visually apparent there are two areas where most overlaps occurs. The South China Sea is one area and another within mainland southern China. We shall only look at the former as our focus here is on coastal Asia south of Hainan.

We have termed this area the ‘Emerging resort development Golden Triangle’. While most coastlines have access to several source markets within a 3 hour flight radius the places within and bordering this triangle have coastlines with more market access options than others.

The apex boundary of this ‘golden triangle’ is around:

  • Sabah-Palawan in the east
  • Anambas-Natuna islands in the south
  • Eastern Gulf of Thailand-Coastal Cambodia-South Vietnam

Most of the places within this triangle are still undeveloped or very much emergent as tourism destinations. With the right tourism development policies and focused destination development and planning can the destinations within the ‘golden triangle’ grow faster than destinations outside?

Does the coastal tourism ‘golden triangle’ provide more perspective on Sam Goi’s GSH acquisition of Sutera Harbour in Kota Kinabalu? or the Chinese interest in developing an integrated tourism project in Semporna-Sipadan?

Cambodia’s offshore islands as well as Vietnam’s central government designated tourism development island Phu Quoc stands to benefit from being at the northern end of this triangle. A read of Mark Gwyther’s views of coastal locations in Vietnam is a must if you’re not familiar the differing aspects of Vietnam’s long coastline.

Will Anambas or Natuna have a chance at being the ‘Maldives’ of the South China Sea?



  • Transparency of the circle varies. Larger and capital cities have a higher transparency (therefore, darker shade) compared to smaller and non-capital cities.
  • Top three largest cities by population considered if the country is large.
  • 3 hour flight time approximated by a 2000km radial distance.
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