UPDATE: 35th ASEAN TOURISM FORUM 2016ASEAN targeting big neighbors to hike inbound tourism volume
PHILIPPINES - The 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), in positioning and promoting itself as a single destination, is targeting the region’s big neighbors as a strategy to raise inbound tourism volume as fast as possible.
This assessment emerged from the lineup of activities in the forthcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2016 slated in Manila on January 18-22.
The schedule of ATF 2016 meetings involving non-ASEAN countries shows China, Russia and India, aside from Japan and Korea, figuring prominently.
Those three countries form part of the so-called BRICS, the acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, all emerging markets and investment destinations that have been posting enormous economic growth for more than a decade.
While there have been signs of decline in their growth rates, those five countries with large populations and hefty dollar reserves from their economic booms remain a vast source of tourists for inbound travel to ASEAN, especially the nearby India to the west, and Russia and China to the north.
Their importance to ASEAN is acknowledged by ATF 2016 Philippine Host Committee Chairman and Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon Jr. of the Department of Tourism (DOT), who describes their regular inclusion in this annual regional meeting as “strategically mutual” for all intents and purposes.
“The proximity to ASEAN of Russia, India and China -- together with Japan and Korea -- makes us all account for more than a contiguous half of the entire Asian continent. Travel between those countries and ASEAN entails less time and cost than anywhere else beyond,” Bengzon said.
Included among the invited foreign buyers at ATF 2016 are travel agents from South Africa, which is much closer to ASEAN than Brazil that lies far across the Pacific. Nonetheless, Brazil will have a delegate to the ATF.
“And by proximity alone, ASEAN becomes attractive to the people of those countries, which can help our tourism volume attain critical mass and get our region promoted as an integrated destination for the world market by mere word of mouth. It’s a strategy that just turns up and happens naturally,” Bengzon explained.
He said surplus capital from developed and emerging markets could also help ASEAN expand its absorptive capacity for tourism through investments in property development and support infrastructure.
“But we have to do that (product and property development) according to the current and projected requirements of the market. That’s why ASEAN does consultative meetings with our Asian neighbors. We cannot afford to have a disconnect simply because of gaps in communication and diplomacy at levels that matter most,” Bengzon stressed.
Thus, participating in ATF 2016 are some 2,600 delegates from 64 countries, at least 438 of them are wholesale buyers of tourism products and travel packages and 86 are members of the media from 37 countries. They will also have the opportunity to visit the ASEAN exhibits and see what makes this region a single, unified destination. Included in their itineraries are post-event tours on Jan. 23-26 to heritage sites in the Ilocos, Cordillera and Southern Tagalog regions, and eco-adventures in Palawan, Bicol, Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor, Negros Oriental and Davao.
Comprising the huge foreign delegation are industry players and decision makers from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, Belgium, India, Bangladesh, Greece, Netherlands, France, Poland, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Cambodia, Bulgaria and Japan, among others.
“And for the very first time, the ATF has just been organized specifically to provide a fully-integrated ASEAN brand experience to the global market, ironically but deliberately key messaging our regional diversity as a brand-defining differentiator, whose visual idiom translates into ‘complete tourism package’,” Bengzon stressed.
Ref: Joy A. Gador / Tel. No. (63 2) 533-9732 / MEGAReach
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