ASEAN Tourism Forum 2018: Scaling up in the next 50 years

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The outlook for travel within Southeast Asia is bright and tasty. The recent 37th ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) saw the region’s tourism ministers express optimism on growing the sector in 2018 onwards, coming from milestones achieved by 2017’s [email protected] campaign.

The 21st Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers shared preliminary data (as shown on above infographic) that indicated as many as 125 million international tourist arrivals for the entire region, far ahead of the [email protected] campaign target of 121 million global inbound visitors. Once confirmed, this would mean tourism to the region grew by 8.4% from 2016.

Weerasak Kowsurat, 36th ATF chair and tourism minister of Thailand, welcomed these developments, saying: “As we celebrate this most recent success, we still recognise the scale of the task before us and the urgency in enhancing our competitiveness to achieve sustainable development. We must, therefore, ensure that we unite to create the synergy which brings about inclusive growth and that none of us is left behind.”

Tourism: best served with variety and to taste

Part of the ASEAN tourism ministers’ plans was to continue investing in the travel and tourism sector in 2018 and beyond. They approved the creation of a permanent secretariat in Jakarta to improve and unify tourism industry standards across member states.

The Ministers’ meeting also focused on cruise tourism, with the possible inclusion of yachting and marina activities. Discussions centred on cruise-related policies and regulations, efficiency in processes, responsibility in business practices, capacity building, destination management, and effects on local communities and the environment.

The tourism ministers also agreed to increase cross-border bus and train traffic in cooperation with their transport counterparts, who reached a consensus to ease border restrictions in 2017. Their joint plans include improving major tourism corridors and allowing travellers from member states to use domestic drivers’ licenses, with research indicating that easing travel across Indochina and Singapore would boost intra-ASEAN tourism.

Central to the Ministers’ meeting was the adoption of the Joint Declaration on Gastronomy and Tourism at the ASEAN Gastronomy Conference, which was themed ‘The Future of Food: Turning ASEAN Tradition and Craftsmanship into Sustainable Gastronomic Tourism.’ The declaration set up the region’s gastronomy platform for sharing knowledge.

“Gastronomic tourism helps to create a strong sense of place for branding and marketing destinations, and also assists in maintaining and preserving local heritage and identity, and protecting biodiversity” – Joint Declaration on Gastronomy and Tourism

Featuring keynote speeches by International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism (IGCAT) president Dr. Diane Dodd, and Auckland University of Technology culinary arts associate professor Dr. Tracy Berno, plus a moderated panel featuring Thai chefs Chumpol Jangprai and Black Panupon, the conference discussed the role of gastronomy in building competitive destination experiences, as well as in driving inclusion, citizen participation and sustainable development.

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