ASEAN Tourism Forum Conference Concludes on Positive Note

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SINGAPORE – At the 33rd ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Sarawak, Malaysia last week, ASEAN nations reported a 12 percent increase in tourist visits since 2012.

Adopting the theme ‘ASEAN – Advancing Tourism Together,’ Malaysian Minister of Tourism and Culture Nazri Abdul Aziz declared the ATF a resounding success by highlighting the ASEAN community’s rapid progress towards meeting the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) by 2015.

“This is our 33rd ATF. We have certainly come a long way. From humble beginnings 33 years ago, we are now on the threshold of realizing our goal of One Vision, One Identity, One Community for ASEAN by 2015. We have made significant progress indeed. I am pleased to announce that we have completed 75 percent of the measures outlined under the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2011-2015. By 2015, we shall achieve 100 percent. Moving forward, let us work together to chart the strategic directions to maximize the potential of ASEAN tourism beyond 2015,” said Minister Nazri.

The ATF conference last week explored a number of key themes including sustainable tourism industry development, the promotion of innovative energy initiatives and how to best ensure the conservation, preservation and protection of ASEAN’s natural environment remained a priority.

Other issues discussed during the four-day meetings included the facilitation of tourism professionals mobility across the region, developing higher quality tourism, promoting ASEAN tourism  and tourism products in major markets and enhancing connectivity and coordination.

The over 1,600 ministers and delegates in attendance agreed to continue their progress towards developing an ASEAN Ecotourism Strategic Plan, and enhancing ASEAN air connectivity through the implementation of the ASEAN Open Skies Agreement.

Issues and challenges surrounding the development and implementation of the ASEAN Common Visa for non-ASEAN nationals was also discussed, and officials were encouraged to work closely with relevant agencies to facilitate the ASEAN Common Visa’s development by 2015.

One of the primary highlights of the conference was Travel Exchange (TRAVEX), an annual 3-day business event featuring 450 booths run by over 350 exhibitors marketing regional individual tourism products from ASEAN Member States to hundreds of international buyers who attended the event.

The ASEAN Tourism Forum is an annual cooperative regional effort to promote tourism in the ASEAN region, and features participants from the tourism industry sector and representatives from each of the 10 ASEAN Member States. Other intra-regional meetings designed to complement the ATF meeting include the Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers and Meeting of ASEAN + 3 Tourism Ministers. Ministers have also historically worked closely with the ASEAN-China Center, ASEAN-Japan Center and ASEAN-Korean Center to develop and promote ASEAN tourism in those countries.

During the closing ceremony, Nazri passed on the ceremonial ATF 2015 plaque and chairmanship to Myanmar’s Hotel and Tourism Minister U Htay Aung who will host the next ASEAN Tourism Forum next year with the theme ‘Tourism Towards Peace, Prosperity and Partnership.’ Aung expressed confidence that Myanmar would be prepared to host ATF 2015 after hosting the World Economic Forum on East Asia and South East Asia Games in recent years.

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