ASEAN records 133 million international arrivals

Izah Azahari

Statistics in 2019 showed that ASEAN welcomed 133 million international arrivals, with an increase of seven per cent compared to 2018, of which the number of intra-ASEAN tourist arrivals accounted for about 36.7 per cent.

This was revealed by Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong, in his capacity as Chairman of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers Meeting, during a press conference held at The Empire Brunei yesterday, to brief about the Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers.

Held on January 5, the 23rd Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers (23rd M-ATM) was preceded by the 51st Meeting of ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) and other Senior Official Meetings with Dialogue Partners.

At the 23rd M-ATM, the work of the ASEAN NTOs and their committees were commended in implementing the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016-2025; and it was noted that 47 out of 73 activities or 64.4 per cent of the ATSP have been implemented or completed.

The ministers commended the active role of the lead countries to implement the strategic action programmes under the ATSP, to enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN as a single tourism destination and to ensure that ASEAN tourism is both sustainable and inclusive, while encouraging all ASEAN Tourism Committee and Working Group Meetings to continue their work to sustain the momentum of the tourism sector’s contribution towards the realisation of the ASEAN integration goals by 2025.

Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong speaks at the ASEAN Tourism Ministers Press Conference yesterday. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

Gearing towards ASEAN as a single tourism destination, the ministers took note of the progress of the implementation of the seven strategic action programmes to ensure ASEAN’s competitiveness as a single tourism destination, including intensifying promotion and marketing; diversifying tourism products; attracting tourism investments; raising the capacity and capability of human capital; implementing and expanding ASEAN tourism standards for facilities, services and destinations; implementing and expanding connectivity and destination infrastructure; and enhancing travel facilitation. The ministers also expressed their support for the strengthening of engagement and collaboration with the private sector in tourism marketing, acknowledging the active support and collaboration by the ASEAN partners in marketing tourism; and looked forward to expanding cooperation with other partners in the near future, through mutually beneficial activities led by the ASEAN Tourism Marketing Partnership Working Group (ATMP-WG).

The ministers realised that digital tourism is one of the key activities to be aligned in enhancing the public’s experience in accessing information and services, and developed a declaration on ASEAN digital tourism to be considered and adopted by the ASEAN Leaders at the 37th ASEAN Summit in Vietnam towards the end of 2020.

The ministers noted with satisfaction the progress of the implementation of the ASEAN Tourism Packages 2019-2020, which feature more than 130 tourism products covering multi-ASEAN destinations from 38 travel agents, with 69 travel packages under the four overarching themes of the ASEAN Tourism Marketing Strategy (ATMS), acknowledging the great potential in attracting more tourists through numerous festivals.

The press conference also revealed that the ministers are working towards signing the Protocol to amend the Mutual Recognition Arrangements on Tourism Professional (MRA-TP) in 2020, on an ad referendum basis to enable the MRA-TP to expand the recognition of more professionals under tourism and hospitality industries, as the Protocol would facilitate and enhance the mobility of certified tourism professionals across and beyond the ASEAN region and increase competitiveness in the tourism sector.

The ministers also noted the revamped ASEAN Tourism Professionals Registration System (ATPRS), which is expected to better facilitate the registration of tourism professionals and MRA-TP related stakeholers, and to serve as a job-matching platform between tourism professionals and their potential employers across the region.

The ministers were pleased to acknowledge that in 2019, the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) region attracted 244.5 million international visitor arrivals, which is an increase by 5.8 per cent from 2018.

During the meeting, the ministers also endorsed the ASEAN Plus Three Framework on Environment Management Standards, and also agreed to develop the successor document to the APT Tourism Cooperation Work Plan this year to synergise the subsequent work plan with the ATSP 2016-2025.