ASEAN TRAVEL FORUM
Tourism ministers and sustainability
ASEAN Ministers of Tourism talked during the ATF about a sustainable future for Southeast Asia although it will be difficult to combine an environment-friendly community-responsible tourism policy while the 10 countries have only an eye on more tourists’ arrivals- particularly from China PRC and increasingly from India.
Ministers acknowledged the necessity to promote ASEAN as a single destination modeled after the European Union. However, the 10 members countries continue to disagree on an ASEAN single visa policy for obviously budget. The implementation of a unique ASEAN visa is indeed seen as a loss of revenues for countries such as Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar or Vietnam. This probably explains why Lao PDR after announcing a relaxation of its visa policy finally did very little during its Visit Year Laos 2018. There is no hope to see anytime soon a single ASEAN visa…
Ministers could be more successful at enforcing the idea of a sustainable, environment friendly tourism policy. ” We need to move away of concentrating tourism movements in a few destinations to avoid the sensitive issue of overcrowding and environmental damage. Encouraging tourists to explore second and third-tier destinations is a solution but it must be done in coordination with local communities to be sure that tourism would not damage destinations and benefit to all,” said Thailand Minister of Sports and Tourism, Weerasak Kowsurat.
Last year, authorities in the Philippines and Thailand closed to tourists some destinations to help nature for recovery. ” It gave an opportunity to promote other destinations in our country,” claimed Philippines State Secretary for Tourism, Bernadette Romulo Puyat. They are now rumours about a possible closure of Komodo National Park in Indonesia.
Diversification of tourism products will also be part of this sustainable move. After gastronomy tourism in 2018, ASEAN ministers of tourism agreed to focus this year on culture and heritage, trying to push for more multi-country circuits involving cultural thematic.
In 2018, international tourists to ASEAN rose 7.6%, reaching an estimated total of 129 million arrivals. Intra-ASEAN travel represented a major share of all tourists at 37.2%.
UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia welcomed a record number of visitors in 2018 according to first numbers released by the Angkor Wat managing authority APSARA. Number of international visitors reached last year 2.59 million, up by 5.45%. They generated ticket sales of US$ 116.64 million up by 8% due to the sharp increase in entrance fee last year.
Bali will introduce a new tourism tax in a move to limit environmental damage from tourism. The measure was announced last week by Bali governor, Wayan Koster who declared that the tourist tax would be allocated to fund programs on preserving the environment and Balinese culture. The island is increasingly concerned about pollution caused by tourist flows. The island recently banned single-use plastics-from shopping bags to straws- as well as Styrofoam. It should help reducing plastic use by 70% within a year according to Bali administration. Plastic waste on the island reaches 3,800 tons per day, with only 60% ending up in landfill.
The new tax would amount to US$10 per head and could be collected with the air ticket. However the tax will only be imposed on foreign tourists while domestic tourists would be spared to pay “as local tourists only come to visit their family, have meetings or for their institution’s events,” said the governor… Unfortunately, a large part of the generated garbage comes from locals. In Bali domestic visitors represented in 2017 over 8.5 million arrivals, a to large number to think that it is only generated by family and meeting travels. Asking local tourists to pay would really contribute to Bali environment protection. But Indonesia is in an election year…
Philippine Airlines will continue to grow its network this year. In Southeast Asia, the airline is launching from Manila two new destinations: Hanoi will be flown from March 31 four times a week with an Airbus A320 and Phnom Penh five times a week from April 1 with an Airbus A320.
On March 31, the Filipino carrier will also increase flight frequencies to Bangkok (25 weekly flights instead of 21) and Kuala Lumpur (11 weekly flights instead of 7). Outside ASEAN, PAL will launch four weekly services on March 31 to Delhi with an Airbus A321neo. During the ATF, PAL marketing team announced that it is finalizing the opening of a second destination to Europe, either Paris or Rome. Passengers should be able to book the new European route from the end of this year.
Expedia released at the end of last year travel trends for Singaporean outbound travellers. In 2018, frequent short getaways was the most popular among Singaporeans, with an average of 4.6 overseas trips, lasting an average of 2.3 nights. Asian cities remain Singaporean travellers’ favourites with ASEAN destinations representing 6 of the top 10 destinations. Number 1 was Kuala Lumpur followed by Bangkok as number 2. Denpasar ranked in 4th position, Penang in 7th, Manila in 9th and Phuket in 10th.
Looking at arrivals per flights, the fastest growing destinations within ASEAN was Angeles (Philippines, near Clark) up 357% on a year basis, followed by Kuantan (up 221%), Hat Yai (up 205%), Mandalay (up 182%), Ipoh (up 146%) and Phu Quoc in Vietnam (up 135%).
Thailand Royal Government extended free visa on arrival to the end of April for citizens of 20 countries until 30 April. The measure should help to stimulate and promote tourism as well as to enhance the kingdom’s attractiveness among foreign visitors during the high travel season. According to TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn, the continuation of the stimulus visa-on-arrival measure came at a perfect time as Thailand is set to celebrate Chinese New Year in February and the Thai New Year later in April. Countries concerned by the measure are Andora, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Chinese Taipei, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The waicver fee is only valid for a stay not exceeding 15 days.
Turkish Airlines is increasing its presence in Thailand. According to TK Managing Director of Turkish Airlines for Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, Ahmet Tugcu, the airline will launch a third daily flight from Bangkok to Istanbul from August 9, 2019 with a morning departure providing improved connections to the rest of Europe. Flight to Phuket will become daily from September 3, 2019, with a departure from Phuket late morning, providing travellers with easier travel time to Phuket International Airport.
In the rest of Southeast Asia, the airline will offer from July three weekly services to Denpasar, Bali while in September it will boost capacity to Vietnam with a daily flight to Ho Chi Minh City and six weekly services to Hanoi.
First destination in Vietnam with 7.5 million foreign travellers estimated in 2018, Ho Chi Minh City wants to be perceived as the country’s most tourist friendly place. ” We want to be a benchmark for quality of services to tourists,” explained during the recent ASEAN Travel Forum Le Truong Hien Hoa, General Director of HCMC Department of Tourism. The city recently introduced free QR code at major sightseeing providing information at 20 monuments and sightseeing in town, is expanding pedestrian areas in the city centre and along the Saigon River and opened a new tourist information centre at Benh Thanh market.
” We are also looking at opening regularly for visit on of Ho Chi Minh City most photographed monument, the former city hall,” added M. Le Truong. Currently accommodating HCMC People’s Committee, the former city hall was built during French colonial tine andwas inspired by Paris City Hall.