ASEAN Tourism Forum 2016

The ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) Tourism Forum will be taking place in Manila, Philippines from 18 to 25 January 2016, writes Des Langkilde

According the World Travel & Tourism Council’s latest report on the Philippines (The Economic Impact of Travel & Tourism 2015), the direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was PHP533.0bn (4.2% of total GDP) in 2014, and was forecast to rise by 4.9% in 2015, and to rise by 5.6% pa, from 2015-2025, to PHP964.0bn (4.4% of total GDP) in 2025. Visitor exports generated PHP255.7bn (6.9% of total exports) in 2014, and is forecast to grow by 6.6% pa, from 2015-2025, to PHP485.2bn in 2025 (9.9% of total).

Considering the importance of Travel and Tourism to the Philippines economy, the Government of the Philippines has enhanced its mechanisms and collaborations with various agencies to bolster the country’s tourism offering. It has made massive investments in infrastructure, from constructing and rehabilitating roads and highways to tourism clusters and tourism destination areas, including the upgrading of airports and seaport.

One such collaboration is the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) Tourism Forum (ATF), a cooperative effort that aims to promote the ASEAN region as a single tourist destination. ATF is an annual gathering that brings together the member countries of the ASEAN to discuss innovations, trends, and developments in the tourism industry and facilitate joint policy formulations to accelerate the growth of the region’s tourism.

“Most people describe the countries in our region as ‘fiercely competitive’, but upon closer inspection one realizes that the more the countries of ASEAN compete, the more that we all tend to gravitate towards growth. Our region is characterized by competition – a cooperative, collaborative decision by all players to compete with each other so that the world will choose the region before choosing the country. Our countries become, in very real terms, each other’s value extension – we become each other’s developing markets. And to make this development last for our children, we have to make certain that we are mindful of the social and environmental context that our region’s growth exists in,” says Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr, the Philippines Secretary of Tourism.

The theme for ATF 2016 is ‘One Community For Sustainability’, which embodies unity in diversity and is a colourful and vibrant tropical 10-in-one paradise like no other. Its great outdoors and rich culture unique to each country, bands the 10-member nations as one regional destination in tourism.
“The Philippines Department of Tourism is honoured and proud to host ATF 2016. With this theme, the 35th edition of the forum will launch the new ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016 – 2020, which will work towards not only the development and growth of the region’s tourism, but also in ensuring that this growth is grounded on responsible, sustainable, and inclusive tourism.

We welcome all ATF 2016 delegates to our home and hope that you will experience our country in different ways — from our diverse natural wonders to our rich cultural heritage and the warmth of the Filipino people. And while this forum will allow for the exchange of ideas for the progress of our economies, we also hope that these meetings will build stronger friendships between our nations,” concludes Jimenez.

With tourism being a vital foothold in the economic and social growth of the region and its countries, ASEAN is committed to strive towards delivering a quality destination experience for each and every visitor, an endeavour that is centred on responsibility, sustainability and inclusive tourism development.

With the 10-member states collaborating and striving towards sustainable tourism, the star that is South-East Asia promises to shine bright as the destinations achieve a flourishing balance of growth and preservation, a formula that will benefit the local population and elevate poverty.

The beauty of South-East Asia lies in its enchanting DNA of warm and hospitable people, culture, language, religion, architecture, cuisine and geography, where old centuries meet the 21st century. ASEAN has since captivated every spectrum of today’s traveller – from adventure seekers, backpackers, businessmen, families, to photography enthusiasts, those seeking sun, sand and sea, trekkers, and more.

Whether for business or for pleasure, South-east 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.

To capture a piece of the past, to take advantage of the present, and to secure a return in the future to relive the wondrous experience all over again – ASEAN seeks to realise its tourism ambitions with sustainability that respects the local people, the traveller, its cultural heritage and the environment.

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