Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) tourism ministers gathering at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) global summit in Bangkok this week vowed to promote regional travel and tourism integration through air, land and maritime connectivity.
Constraints such as out-of-sync regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and inconvenience continue to hamper freedom of travel in ASEAN, the summit heard.
Thailand Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul expressed optimism about closer cooperation for ASEAN integration with Thailand as the hub.
“ASEAN is 50 years old, but ASEAN tourism acts like a 15-year-old,” she said while opening the session “Freedom to Travel: Can ASEAN countries lead the way?” on the second day of the two-day summit.
Kobkarn said ASEAN has dual tourism and travel strategies – long-haul and intra-ASEAN – that benefit not just Thailand, but ASEAN as well.
The “long-haul” strategy offers “two-countries-one-destination” travel packages that encourage travellers from Europe, the Middle East and America to visit at least two ASEAN countries as part of the “intra-ASEAN” promotion of weekend destinations, medical tourism, wellness and education.
“We have to thank all the airlines, the low-cost ones in particular,” Kobkarn said. “The growth of ASEAN tourism is due to the growth of budget airlines offering capital-to-capital routes.”
Further expansion of ASEAN tourism can be achieved through maximising the potential of the existing air, land and maritime links between mainland Southeast Asia and the rest of the region, she said.
“ASEAN is 50 years old, but ASEAN tourism acts like a 15-year-old.”
Thailand’s developing north-south and east-west corridors, the planned aviation hub in Rayong’s U-Tapao, its developing Phuket-based maritime tourism and more than 600 flights from Thailand to other ASEAN countries are some of the Kingdom’s strengths that will not only stimulate ASEAN tourism but also improve regional connectivity, she added.
Single ASEAN Visa This Year?
A European Union-style single visa for Southeast Asia is expected to spur tourism in one of the world’s emerging economic growth centers, officials said ThursdayI.
The single visa for ASEAN member-states will be implemented as early as this year, officials said.
“We would like to have one visa for ASEAN countries. This is for foreign tourists from all over the world to travel to ASEAN countries. They can stay longer in ASEAN countries,” Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said.
ASEAN would work on a single visa despite some policy differences, Thailand’s Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said.
“It’s not easy, but we are not stopping,” she said.