THE Minister of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR), Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, was in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, to attend the 18th Meeting of Asean Tourism Ministers and the 14th Meeting of Asean, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea Tourism Ministers held in conjunction with the Asean Tourism Forum (ATF) 2015 on January 25 and 26.
In his remarks, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya highlighted the importance of balanced growth in addition to inclusive growth in the development of tourism to be incorporated in new ATSP 2016-2025 and congratulated Indonesia for the hosting of the Regional Secretariat for Implementation of Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professionals in Jakarta, which is a historic milestone in the growth of Asean tourism.
The meetings were attended by Haji Khairuddin bin Haji Abdul Hamid, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship) at the MIPR, and officials from the Tourism Development Department, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, according to a press release.
During the 18th Meeting of Asean Tourism Ministers, the tourism ministers welcomed the large influx of tourists in 2014.
Preliminary figures showed that 97.2 million of international tourists visited Asean member states, posting a growth of three per cent from 2013.
The ministers were also pleased that the operationalisation of Asean Open Skies Agreements helped to maintain intra-Asean travel as the main source of tourism growth in the region, with record arrivals of 28.05 million, or 53 per cent share of total international tourists visited the Asean region.
The ministers commended the progress made in implementing the Asean Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2011-2015 and tasked senior officials to expedite the implementation of remaining measures to support the timely realisation of Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.
The ministers agreed that for the new ATSP 2016-2025, Asean should strive to become a quality tourism destination offering a unique and diverse Asean experience while committing to responsible, sustainable and inclusive tourism development.
The ministers endorsed the final text of the Agreement on the Establishment of the Regional Secretariat for the Implementation of the Asean Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Tourism Professionals in Jakarta, Indonesia, to facilitate the implementation of the MRA on Tourism Professionals and looked forward to the signing of the agreement during the 26th Asean Summit in April 2015 in Malaysia.
Pertaining to quality tourism services, the ministers were pleased with the adoption of Asean tourism standards and their certification process for green hotels, home-stays, spa services, public toilets, clean tourist cities and community-based tourism standards, and tasked senior officials to ensure relevant establishments adhere to adopted standards and also noted the new initiative on the development of Asean’s MICE Venue Standard.
With regard to Asean tourism marketing strategy, the ministers acknowledged the good progress made in promoting and marketing Asean tourism through website, social media marketing, public relations and partnerships with private sector and Asean centres.
The ministers noted the progress in developing nature-based tourism products, including the development of the Asean Ecotourism Strategic Plan, and tasked the senior officials to align it with the new ATSP 2016-2025.
On connectivity, the ministers commended the enhancement of Asean air connectivity through the implementation of the Asean Open Skies Agreements and the engagement with Dialogue Partners in air services negotiations, including China, European Union, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
The ministers also welcomed the recent conclusion of the Protocol 2 on the Exchange of 5th Freedom Air Traffic Rights between Asean member states and China under the Asean-China Air Transport Agreement, which will further enhance business and leisure travel within and outside the region.
During the 14th Asean, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea Tourism Ministers Meeting, the ministers commended the progress made in the implementation of the Asean Plus Three Tourism Cooperation Work Plan 2013-2017.
The ministers applauded the roles of the Asean-China Centre, Asean-Japan Centre and Asean-Korea Centre in promoting tourism and cultural exchanges between Asean and the Plus Three countries during the year 2014.
Pehin Dato Awang Haji Yahya also had bilateral meetings with the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Dr Taleb Rifai, on leveraging Islamic Tourism in Brunei Darussalam and discussing ways to help Brunei Darussalam in its efforts to raise capacity building. He also met with the Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Mario Hardy, and discussed possible collaboration in the areas of tourism capacity building and events organising.
The Asean Tourism Forum is an annual tourism event organised by the Asean member states. This year’s theme was ‘Asean: Tourism Towards Peace, Prosperity and Partnership’.