ASEAN for ASEAN: Focus Will Be Given to Strengthening Intra-ASEAN Tourism

Some 105 million of travellers are recorded in the 10 ASEAN member countries while the market share of ASEAN travellers represent on average a little less than half of these arrivals- 46% to 48% according to official data. But they could grow to 152 million by 2025 while intra ASEAN arrivals could overpass the 90-million traveller’s mark.GDP contribution of ASEAN tourism could potentially increase from 12% today to 15% in 2025 while tourism could represent 7% of all employments in a decade time compared to 3.7% today.

 It is now time for ASEAN NTOs and Ministers to strengthen tourist movements within the region, a way also to avert potential weak demand from other international market sources.
The move comes at the right time as many source markets showed in 2015 a marked slowdown in arrivals if not a decline. Australia, Russia were down due to economic uncertainties and a declining currency, China travel is slowing down due to economic concerns while some European markets tend to turn careful in their choice of destinations under terrorism threat.”ASEAN itself is our future as it bears a huge potential. There is a growing demand from ASEAN citizens as living standard are increasing. But also the abolition of visa for most countries facilitate movements”, explains Ramon Jimenez, Philippines State Secretary for Tourism.
‘ASEAN for ASEAN’ is due to promote the destination towards all ASEAN citizens with various initiatives. ” There is still a need to raise awareness about the ASEAN tourism brand”, indicated Le Tuan Anh, who looks after marketing within the Vietnam National Tourism Administration.
Various initiatives are being now launched to foster tourism movements within the region. “Air transport is a major component as most countries do follow today an open-skies policy which helps improving connectivity for second- and third-tier destinations. Although there is still scope for more progresses”, pointed out Ak Zulkhairi Abdul Razak, Tourism Office Marketing and Promotion Centre at Brunei Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism.
While head of NTOs and Tourism Departments seem to scratch their head to give a precise figure over the affected budget for intra ASEAN tourism promotion, some cost-effective initiatives are already going on. Such as communication through social media – an effective marketing tool for techno-savvy Asians as well as photo contests- another favourite among Asian consumers. Fam trips and ASEAN mega events are now created to promote trans-border travel while the private sector is creating special ASEAN packages.
The ‘ASEAN for ASEAN’ initiative is integrated into the new ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan, which was officially presented to the public during the final press conference of tourism ministers on January 22. The new plan covers the period 2016 to 2025. The plan will not only continue promoting the region as a single destination but will also promote ASEAN as a “quality tourism destination offering a unique, diverse ASEAN experience ad will be commited to responsible, sustainable, inclusive and balanced tourism development, so as to contribute significantly to the socio-economic well-being of ASEAN people”, highlighted Ramon Jimenez. Stengthening ASEAN as a single destination will be a main objective of the region’s common marketing strategy.

The plan lists 10 strategic actions: intensify promotion and marketing; diversify tourism products; attract tourism investment; raise capacity and capability of human capital; implement and expand ASEAN standards for facilities, services and destinations; implement and expand connectivity and destination infrastructure; enhance travel facilitation; upgrade local communities and public-private sector participation in the value chain; ensure safety and security, prioritize protection and management of heritage sites; and increase responsiveness to environmental protection and climate change. Special promotion will also take place in 2017 as ASEAN will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The plan will be rolled out in three phases starting from coming March, according to Leong Yue Kheong, assistant chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board.

The balance will still be tenuous between an ASEAN willing to enhance tourism cooperation and each country’s own national tourism ambitions. But it can work!

Talking to media, Mr. Jimenez spoke from ‘co-opetition’. “We sell ourselves as individual nations and collectively we sell ourselves as a region,” he explained. ASEAN spirit was best summed up by Thailand Minister of Sports and Tourism Mrs Kobkarn  Wattanavrangkul: “Unity in diversity. This is all the beauty about ASEAN. Raising money from tourism is one thing. But most important is to open our hearts and our cultures to the others”, she told.