The 2016 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tourism Forum (ATF) and the accompanying TRAVEX travel trade show, held in Manila recently, once again highlighted why this region is such a popular tourist destination. With experiences that range from extravagant luxury, wild and adventurous experiences to beaches and backpackers as well as the ever popular and growing niche of business and incentive travel, it’s no wonder the ASEAN countries draw visitors from far and wide.
By Tessa Buhrmann
Philippines, the host of the 35th ATF, pulled out all the stops to make an impression on its 2,620 delegates comprising of ministerial and NTO delegates, as well as TRAVEX suppliers from across ASEAN, international buyers and media.
ATF TRAVEX featured a large and diverse collection of ASEAN suppliers, connecting in the region of 1,000 exhibitors with 457 buyers from around the world, alongside 175 international and local media.
The 3-day event running from 20-22 January incorporated close to 70 official sessions with the host country setting the bar high on several fronts – from the participation of 175 local exhibitors from across the Philippines, to a generous line-up of social activities including Pre-Show City Tours, the Opening Ceremony, Welcome Reception and Dinner, and Farewell Party for all ATF delegates, as well as other cocktail and exclusive dinner functions.
The Philippines certainly lived up to their slogan ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ with its wonderful Filipino hospitality, world-class infrastructure, facilities and services. A highlight for a number of international buyers and media was the opportunity of booking one of the Philippine Host Committee’s ten post-ATF tours that ran from 23 to 26 January. This marked ATF’s most extensive number of post-show tours in recent years. With a diverse range of itineraries including UNESCO sites and heritage tours, to islands hopping and highlands visits, proving that there is a Philippine destination to suit every taste.
The ATF is a co-operative initiative between the South-east Asian Nations to promote the ASEAN region as a single tourist destination. Member nations are: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. True to ATF’s objectives of promoting the 10 ASEAN regions as a single destination, the spotlight at this year’s event was not only on the Philippines. Other ASEAN NTOs displayed huge support and involvement in enhancing the 2016 ATF TRAVEX programme. In addition to their own showcase on the exhibition floor, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia shared their own destination’s appeal and hospitality, while evidencing ASEAN’s strength of diversified experiences amidst a unified community during hosted lunches, late night functions and cocktail bashes.
The beauty of Southeast Asia most certainly lies in its warm and hospitable people, diverse culture, language and religion, its architecture, cuisine and geography – a blend of ancient and modern, where old centuries meet the 21st century. ASEAN captivates every spectrum of today’s traveller – from adventure seekers, backpackers, businessmen, families to photography enthusiasts, those seeking sun, sand and sea, luxury and wellness as well as trekkers and wildlife enthusiasts.
The message from ATF2016 is that whether for business or for pleasure, Southeast Asia wants to continue maintaining a high level of tourist satisfaction, ensuring a meaningful experience to its tourists while raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.
Visit www.atf2017.com for more info.
About the author: Tourism Tattler contributor, Tessa Buhrmann is the editor of Responsible Traveller magazine. She attended ATF2016 as a travel trade media correspondent on behalf of Tourism Tattler, and has written several interesting insights on Manila and the Phillipines from a responsible travellers perspective on her popular blog at www.responsibletraveller.co.za