Rejuvenating tourism in the region was on the mind of every nation
delegate at last week’s ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2023, which was widely
seen as a platform for closer cooperation on recovery and promotion of
the region's tourist destinations to the rest of the world.
Here are the key takeaways from the forum this year:
Sharpening focus on sustainable and community-based tourism
Coming out of the shadow of the pandemic, ASEAN member countries are
rebooting their respective brands by promoting lesser-known destinations
and marketing sustainable and community-based tourism. From Indonesia’s
tourist villages to the Philippines’ tourism circuits, the message was
about creating high-value experiences for visitors.
Margarita Montemayor Nograles, COO of Tourism Promotions Board
Philippines (TPB) said, “We want to do things differently but at the
same time, how do we help our local community? We see increased interest
in nature and culture and this has prompted us to open new circuits,
allowing us to promote all our regions equitably and roll-out unique
This was also in line with the ASEAN Framework on Sustainable Tourism
Development which guides the collective efforts of ASEAN countries
towards a more sustainable and inclusive tourism.
Investing in infrastructure
According to a Forbes report, five of the 10 members of ASEAN had
been featured as the world's 50 most beautiful places. Yet connectivity
remains a challenge for many nations.
“For Laos, infrastructural weaknesses are our immediate barriers,”
said Sengsoda Vanthanouvong, deputy director general of tourism
marketing department at Laos' Ministry of Information, Culture and
Tourism. “If we want to capture the Chinese and Indonesia market, we
need access to direct flights from China and Indonesia respectively to
boost tourist arrivals.”
Eyeing quality tourists
The approach towards quality tourists goes hand-in-hand with
sustainable and community-based tourism. Quality tourists are more
interested in experiential tourism, seeking cultural events, nature
activities, and seek out community initiatives.
Community over competition
Everyone is hoping to get a slice of the big-spending Chinese tourist
pie now that Beijing has allowed its residents to freely travel out of
While acknowledging that Malaysia, like other ASEAN countries, is
keen to attract more Chinese tourist dollars to the country, Shanina
Samsuri, senior assistant director, international promotion division
Southeast Asia, Tourism Malaysia said there also needs to be an approach
of working together for the greater good.
“We all have our own campaign to revive our respective tourism
industry and we all are looking at the same markets. I think what’s
important for many countries now is – let’s focus on bringing tourists
back to this region.”
A platform of hope and recovery
The TRAVEX event at ATF 2023 was a showcase of optimism and hope in
the region's tourism industry. Despite being a smaller event, the
players in the ASEAN region are looking to the future and rebuilding
The "Visit Cambodia 2023" campaign and Malaysia's commitment to
revitalising tourism are examples of countries' efforts to welcome back
According to UNWTO data, tourist arrivals in ASEAN and the Pacific
islands more than doubled in the first seven months of 2022 compared to
2021. Thailand recorded 11.15 million foreign arrivals in 2022 and was
promoting lesser-known destinations at their booth.
TRAVEX 2023 was an opportunity for exhibitors to reconnect with both
sellers and buyers after the pandemic. Overall, the ASEAN region is
committed to revitalising the tourism industry and reopening its doors
to international tourists.