Pandemic impact highlighted at ASEAN tourism meet

James Kon

ASEAN tourism ministers shared concerns over the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak this year, with tourism being one of the hardest hit sectors.

The tourism sector suffered a loss of approximately 36 per cent in tourism receipts; international arrivals declined by approximately 72 per cent; hotel room occupancy is at its lowest; and the travel and tourism industry had also experienced massive cancellations in 2020.

These concerns were highlighted following the 24th Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers, with the 20th Meeting of ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and Republic of Korea) Tourism Ministers, and the Eighth Meeting of ASEAN-India Tourism Ministers through video conference.

Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Apong represented Brunei Darussalam. The meeting was chaired by Minister of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia Dr Thong Khon, while Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy of Indonesia Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno served as Vice-Chairman at the 24th ASEAN Tourism Ministers Meeting with the theme ‘Unity for Sustainable and Responsible Tourism Recovery’.

The meetings were preceded by the 53rd Meeting of ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) and other Senior Official Meetings with Dialogue Partners, from February 2 to 3.

Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Apong joins his ASEAN counterparts during the meeting. PHOTO: MPRT

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism Hajah Tutiaty binti Haji Abdul Wahab, and senior officials from the Tourism Development Department under the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism also attended.

The ministers adopted the updated ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016 – 2025 with mitigation plans and actions using digital technology to be more resilient, sustainable and inclusive, taking into account lessons learnt from the pandemic, and the latest developments in the industry.

The ministers welcomed the Study on the Impact of COVID-19, and Recommendations for Policies and Best Practices for the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan for ASEAN Tourism in December 2020, supported by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Trade and Investment Facility for Development (CTIF); and supported the development of a Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan based on the study, as one of the priority economic deliverables during Brunei Darussalam’s ASEAN chairmanship.

The ministers took note of the progress of the development of the ASEAN Common Guidelines on Hygiene and Safety for Workers and Communities in the Tourism Industry as a tool to further enhance confidence and trust, which is fundamental to the restart of tourism in the region; the activities and programmes to maintain human capital by reskilling and upskilling employees working in the tourism industry; and endorsed the ASEAN Tourism Investment Portfolio, which promotes investment opportunities to further attract and facilitate international investors to invest in the ASEAN tourism sector, the ASEAN Tourism Marketing Strategy (ATMS) 2021 – 2025, which sets out a marketing roadmap for the next five years by strengthening collaboration with the private sector in promoting the tourism industry across the region.

The ministers adopted the Phnom Penh Declaration on a More Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient ASEAN Tourism developed by Cambodia. The ministers also encouraged ASEAN NTOs to develop work programmes for its implementation to foster the ASEAN Tourism Recovery and a more resilient future.

The meeting also discussed cooperation with the Plus Three Countries and India and with ASEAN bodies and partners such as with the various ASEAN Centres of the Plus Three countries, ASEAN Travel Association (ASEANTA), ASEAN Tourism Research Association (ATRA) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO). The ministers expressed appreciation to the dialogue partners and ASEAN bodies for the support and cooperation that will strengthen the ASEAN member states’ capacity and capability to maintain competitiveness in the tourism sector.

The chairmanship of Cambodia to host ASEAN Tourism Forum 2021 has been extended to January 2022, to enable Cambodia to host the ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2022.