ASEAN desperately needs sustainable tourism

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From centuries-old temples in Cambodia to sleek new public transport systems in Singapore, tourism’s rapid growth is set to play a critical role in shaping infrastructure use in ASEAN.

Around 129 million tourists visited the region last year, and that number is expected to rise to 155 million in 2020. Overall, travel and tourism contributed US$329.5 billion, or 12 percent, to the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) – and that number is expected to rise further to US$598.3 billion in 2028.

But factors such as cheaper travel options, a rise in connectivity and fewer tourist barriers have increased demand to unsustainable levels, and ASEAN’s long term competitiveness as a tourist destination may be undermined by bottlenecks unless appropriate investment is made in travel infrastructure and other travel resources according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in a recent report.

ASEAN has yet to meet global benchmarks in tourist service infrastructure, and environmental sustainability remains the region’s greatest competitiveness constraint – with many countries suffering from high air pollution, water stress, below-average levels of wastewater treatment, endangered wildlife and forest loss.

While ASEAN may be ahead of the pack when it comes to the competitiveness of its tourism sector, the industry’s expansion means critical gaps in policy, resources and infrastructure will be exposed if not properly managed.

Southeast Asia scored an average of 4.8 on the WEF’s ‘Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report – Travel and Tourism at a Tipping Point’ which was released on Wednesday. The index ranks 140 countries on their relative strengths in relation to global tourism and travel. The global average was 3.8 while the average for Asia Pacific was 4.2, reflecting ASEAN’s strong balance of natural and cultural resources to attract tourism – and its value for money.

Read the full article at The ASEAN Post:

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