ATF 2019 : Developing ASEAN as a high-end tourist destination

Ha Long City – “ASEAN – The Power of One” was the theme of this year’s annual ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) hosted by its member country Vietnam. The world renowned Halong Bay tourism resort, 174 kilometers east of its capital city Hanoi, welcomed 2.000 delegates and 640 TRAVEX exhibitors and 362 buyers to its newly built exhibition and convention center.  

In their annual joint meeting, the tourism ministers discussed all relevant issues effecting tourism their ten member countries. They were pleased to announce that 129 million tourists had visited Southeast Asia in 2018, an increase of 7.6 per cent from 2017. A major share of the tourism industry has been Intra-ASEAN traveling, making up 37.2 per cent of total international arrivals in 2017. 

ASEAN Tourism Ministers in Halong Bay, Vietnam

ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 

The ministers applauded the progress made in the implementation of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016-2025 and commended the active role of the lead countries towards the realization of the ASEAN integration goals in 2025. 

Promotion and Marketing    

In supporting the implementation of the ASEAN Tourism Marketing Strategy (ATMS) 2017-2020, the ministers welcomed the appointment of the ASEAN Tourism Marketing Agency and the integrated marketing plan in regard to blogging, social media marketing, as well as branding and website development.

The ministers agreed to focus on the development and implementation of Wellness tourism and Culture & Heritage tourism as the regional thematic experiences for 2019. 

The ministers expressed their appreciation to AirAsia as the Airline Partner and to TTG as the Trade Media Partner for their active collaboration and support in marketing ASEAN tourism throughout the year 2018. 

In this context, other international partners were invited to establish collaboration with ASEAN, to promote and market the region led by the ASEAN Tourism Marketing Partnership Working Group.

The ASEAN officials accepted Vietnam’s invitation to participate in annual international travel marts organized in Vietnam such as Ho Chi Minh City’s International Travel Expo (ITE) and Vietnam International Travel Mart (VITM). 

Diversifying ASEAN Tourism Products 

The new ASEAN Tourism Packages for 2019-2020 features more than 130 tourism products covering multi-ASEAN destinations from 38 travel agents with 69 travel packages under the four overarching themes of the ATMS. 

The government representatives see great potential in attracting tourists through numerous festivals in the region. In this regard, each country supported the initiative to develop festival tourism in addition to the existing tourism products. In the works is also the development of a Buddhist Tourism Story Book and the website of “Buddhist Tourism in ASEAN and South Asia” initiated by Thailand. 

Progress has also been made in the implementation of the ASEAN Cruise Work Plan 2018, particularly ASEAN’s collaboration at the world’s largest cruise trade show, Seatrade Cruise Global 2018, to collectively raise awareness of Southeast Asia within the cruise community. 

The participating ASEAN states will come together for the fifth time at this year’s trade show in April 2019 in Miami, USA. A new ASEAN Cruise Video has also been produced in order to further promote ASEAN as a cruising region of choice. 

Preserving ASEAN Heritage in the Digital Age 

The conference on “Connecting Heritages for ASEAN Tourism Development in the Digital Age”, with the participation of a large number of global, regional and national researchers, tourism experts, delegates and governmental officials, four key points were agreed on: (1) Lessons learnt on the balance between tourism development and heritage preservation; (2) Initiatives and solutions to connect World heritages towards ASEAN tourism development, to establish an e-database of ASEAN’s World heritage sites; (3) Solutions to call for investment on creative tourism and smart tourism development; and (4) Creating added value of heritage tourism based on the power of digital technology. 

The ministers expect that the conference’s outcomes would encourage ASEAN member countries to join hands in making ASEAN a high-end destination with authentic experiences. 

The new Halong City Exhibition and Convention Center

Developing Quality Tourism 

At the ASEAN Tourism Standards Awards on 18 January, 30 Homestay establishments in the region were honored with the ASEAN Homestay Award, 26 entities received the ASEAN Community Based Tourism Award (CBT) and the 1st ASEAN Spa Services Awards were presented to 44 establishments. 

Halong City Convention and Exhibition Center

In providing an opportunity to promote the ASEAN Public Toilet Standard to ensure the quality, comfort, safety and waste management of public toilets at tourist destinations, the ministers granted the 1st ASEAN Public Toilet Award to 42 entities. 

The government representatives also adopted the ASEAN MICE Venue Standard for Meeting Rooms in Convention/Exhibition and Public/Private Sector and the ASEAN MICE Venue Standard for Exhibition Venues. 

Attracting Tourism Investments 

The ASEAN countries are in the process of developing an ASEAN Tourism Investment Guide as well an an ASEAN Tourism Investment Portfolio, which will provide information on ASEAN opportunities, rules and regulations for international investors to invest in the ASEAN tourism sector. 

Enhancing Capabilities of Tourism 

In order to improve and develop services in the tourism sector, the ministers were pleased with the adoption of the ASEAN MRA-TP Work Plan 2019- 2023. The Work Plan envisions that tourism professionals in the region are certified to deliver quality tourism services, through the completion and continuation of existing initiatives and achievements. 

During the conference, nine tourism training and education centers in the region were given “Plaques of Appreciation” for their active support and implementation of the ASEAN MRA-TP. In addition, the Handbook of ASEAN MRA-TP and Guidelines for ASEAN MRA-TP Trainer and Assessor were also launched during the conference. 

The ministers expressed appreciation to the Government of Australia for its continued support to ASEAN in the operationalization of the MRA-TP through the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program II. 

Increasing Community and Private Sector Participation 

The ASEAN governments were pleased to note the adoption of the “Strategy on Participation of Local Communities and Private Sector in Tourism Development”. The Strategy would help to identify the impact factors, scale of development, and interactions among stakeholders in supporting the ASEAN communities and the private sectors to gradually affirm their roles and positions in contributing to the development of tourism in the region.  

Meeting the newly appointed Philippine Secretary of the Department of Tourism, H.E. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat

ASEAN Gastronomy Forum 

An ASEAN Gastronomy Forum will be held on 21-22 March and will be hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Thailand. 

Enhancing Travel Facilitation and Connectivity 

There has been an intensive afford in engaging partners in the European Union, Japan and the Republic of Korea to further facilitate land travel within the ASEAN region. In this context the ministers made reference to studies on “Promoting Drive/Overland Tourism Across ASEAN through Recognition of Domestic Driving Licenses Issued by ASEAN Countries”, and “Promoting Development of Road Connectivity along Major Tourism Corridors”. 

The government representatives confirmed the progress made on the ASEAN Common Visa (ACV) initiative by the Ad Hoc Working Group, as well as the progress on the ASEAN Business Travel Card (ASEAN BTC) initiative by the Joint Task Force in order to further boost tourism growth in ASEAN.

Discussion with the Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, H.E. Weerasak Kowsurat 

ATF 2020 in Brunei Darussalam 

The ATF 2020 will be held from 12-16 January 2020 in Brunei Darussalam, with the theme “ASEAN – Together Towards A Next Generation Of Travel”. – The ATF 2021 will be hosted by Cambodia.   

The following ministers attending the joint meeting: Dato Ali Apong, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, Brunei Darussalam; Dr. Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism, Cambodia; Dr. Arief Yahya, Minister of Tourism, Indonesia; Prof. Dr. Bosengkham Vongdara, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lao PDR; Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Malaysia; U Ohn Maung, Union Minister for Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar; Ms. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Secretary of Tourism, Philippines; Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board, representing Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore; Weerasak Kowsurat, Minister for Tourism and Sports, Thailand; Nguyen Ngoc Thien, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam; and Dr. Aladdin D. Rillo, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Economic Community. (AT/Henri Zix) Photos: ASEAN TODAY