ASEAN TRAVEL FORUM News Round-Up 16 to 19 January 2019

ASEAN Travel Forum, Vietnam,

The 38th ASEAN TRAVEL FORUM (ATF) was hosted this year in Halong Bay City, Vietnam. An opportunity to learn about new strategies and products launched by the 10 member countries in Southeast Asia.


Brunei, Borneo last independent Sultanate, will welcome the next ATF in 2020. An opportunity for Salinah Salleh to highlight the direction taken by the tourism authority. ” Brunei is increasingly committed to turn tourism into a top economic sector for the country, as we want to be less dependent of the hydrocarbons’ industry. A proper tourism development department has been created as well as a Brunei Tourism Board which are looking to be more active for promotion. We revamped already our website under and introduced last year  a new slogan “Abode of Peace” with a revamped logo,” highlighted Mrs. Salleh.

According to data compiled for the first 9 months of 2018, Brunei welcomed 4.5% more international tourists arriving by air, representing a total of 205,129. in 2017, total arrivals by air topped 259,000, a share of only 6.4% over total arrivals of 4.06 million, mostly from land borders. China, Malaysia and Indonesia are the largest contributors to tourist arrivals, China growing by 29.4$ with close to 50,000 travellers from January to September.

2019 is likely to be a good year for Brunei according to Mrs. Salleh. New flights are being launched by Royal Brunei Airlines to Brisbane, Changcha and Tokyo Narita while AirAsia is looking to serve Melaka. The Department of Tourism is also building up experience and story telling products around four themes: Nature, Urban, Cuisine and Culture. All will be highlighted at the 39th edition of the ATF in 2020 which will take place in Bandar Seri Begawan from January 12 to 16.


Cambodia passed this year for the first time the six-million international tourists’ mark, a result due to the strong rise of Chinese travellers, up by over 70% over the first 10 months of 2018. Chinese arrivals represent now close to 35% of all arrivals to the country. ” The trend is likely to continue as we have more and more flights into China with secondary cities now linked to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville airports,” said Prak Vuthy, Director Marketing Overseas at the Ministry of Tourism. China is not only a major source for inbound tourism but also as an investor in tourism infrastructure. Airports, highways, hotels as well as the new national stadium are mostly funded by China.

in 2019, Cambodia will mostly concentrate its promotion on gastronomy worldwide. The kingdom is likely to pass the 7-million arrivals’ mark, a year earlier than planned. New flights to China but also to Manila and Jakarta will start during the year while a new Cambodian Tourism Board comprising state institutions and private companies started its activity.


In 2018, Indonesia missed its target of 17 million international arrivals, a result due to the numerous natural catastrophies that affected the world’s largest archipelago. Instead, the country is likely to have reached 15.5 million international travelers, based on 2017 figures (14.039 million international arrivals), ” We probably lost between 400,000 and 600,000 travellers this year following Lombok and Central Sulawesi earthquakes and the recent tsunami along the Southern Sumatra coast,” admitted Edy Wardoyo, Director of Marketing Promotion at Indonesia Ministry of Tourism.

Catastrophes translated into a slow down of Indonesia Top Destination, Bali. The island saw total arrivals growing by only 2,9% during the first 11 months of the year while West Nusa Tenggara (Lombok) saw a decline of 35%. Other destinations such as Yogyakarta, West Java and North Sumatra also recorded declines of respectively 2.8%, 7.3% and 10.7% from January to November. However, strong growth of respectively 32,33% and 41% were recorded at Surabaya and Manado international airports.

The government keeps its target of 20 million international visitors in 2019 – a promise of current Indonesia President Joko Widodo-, although it is highly unlikely that Indonesia will reach this target. “Whatever the results of the presidential election this year, tourism policies of this government have been already confirmed and enshrined in the nation’s economic development. We will continue to promote our top 10 priority destinations and we still firmly believe that tourism will be this year the top contributor to foreign exchange earnings,” added Wardoyo.


China and ASEAN countries will be the focus of all marketing and promotional initiatives of Laos Ministry of Tourism in 2019. “Natural disaster- particularly the flooding along the Mekong River had a negative effect on tourism and derail our forecasts for the year 2018. We used to anticipate 5.2 million international arrivals in conjunction with our Visit Year Laos but we probably saw a modest decline or a stagnation in arrivals last year,” told Mrs Sensoda Vanthanouvong, Deputy Director General of Tourism Marketing Department at the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism. Total arrivals from January to September were down by 4% to 2.92 million.

However, they are some hope that 2019 will see a return to growth. ” We will focus on China with a special China-Laos Tourism Year” which will translate with new direct flights and aggressive marketing campaigns. Chinese travellers are rising rapidly, growing last year by over 17%,” added Vanthanouvong. Lao Airlines recently Changcha and Chengdu to its network while China Southern started flying last year to Chongqing and Hainan Airlines to Shenzhen. In Southeast Asia, Singapore low cost carrier Scoot will start flying from April to Luang Prabang and Vientiane.


New Director General of Tourism Malaysia Musa Yusof promises a big bang for tourism to Malaysia in 2019. ” Many professionals of tourism complaint that Malaysia tourism has disappeared from the radars in recent years. I can assure you that we will be back with renewed strength and creativity,” told the new Director General during a press conference at ATF.

Malaysia has experienced three years of tourism decline in a row. From January to September, Malaysia recorded a slight decline of 0,3% which is attributed to a sharp decline in tourist arrivals from Singapore (-15.6%), Malaysia largest inbound market. “However, tourist receipts increased by 0.5% during the same period which is exactly what the government is looking at: higher spending by tourists,” added Musa Yusof.

Yusof wants to work more with outbound travel agencies around the world as well as with airlines. “Connectivity is essential to attract tourists to Malaysia. We lost many intercontinental destinations following Malaysia Airlines restructuring. We plan to announce on January 29 a marketing fund in partnership with Malaysia Airports to attract more air carriers,” he stressed.

Other marketing activities include the promotion of a Visit Year Sarawak and Visit Year Melaka as well as special tourism incentives for the Malaysia-China Cooperation Year.


China last year took over Thailand as Myanmar top market. Europe was for a long time Myanmar largest inbound market but travellers from Western countries initiated a boycott of the destination in the last two years following the issue over the Rohingya minority.

According to Hla Mynt, Director International and Regional Cooperation Department, the growth can be attributed to all Asian markets, which now represent over 76% of all international arrivals. “Growth remained however moderate with total arrivals growing by only 3.5%. Estimated total arrivals reached 3.55 million compared to 3.41 million in 2017. Growth is likely to accelerate as we strengthen promotion to ASEAN countries, Japan, China and India,” explained Hla Mynt.

Last year, Myanmar has turned more attractive for tourists thanks to sinking hotel prices – due now to overcapacity in main tourist destinations, the introduction of e-visa and additional flight capacities. “E-visa is now available for 100 countries,” said Hla Mynt. Among significant events was the introduction of a new visual identity and tagline  “Myanmar: Be Enchanted”. In another effort to lure more tourists, Myanmar exempted of visa four Asian countries (Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Macau) and offered visa on arrival to China and India.