ASEAN members can enhance regional tourism by working together, says Aquino
President Benigno S. Aquino III is received by DOT Secretary RamonJimenez, Jr, heads of International Tourism Organizations, and by members of the diplomatic corps upon arrival at the Philippine InternationalConvention Center for the opening ceremony of theASEAN Tourism Forum. (MNS photo)
MANILA (Mabuhay) – President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday enjoined the participants of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tourism Forum (ATF) 2016 to work together and share experiences to enhance the region’s tourism sector.
Like the Philippines, tourism is also a major industry in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, which lead the pack when it comes to attracting tourists, President Aquino said during the opening of the ATF 2016 at the Philippine International Convention Center.
“We belong to a region that holds vast potentials in terms of tourism,” he said, noting that 2014 saw tourist arrivals in ASEAN reaching 105.1 million, a staggering 42.4 percent increase from 73.8 million tourist arrivals in 2010.
Of those 105.1 million visitors, he said, 49.22 million came from within the ASEAN itself.
“The strong interest that our peoples had in visiting each other’s countries highlights a potential to accelerate the growth of intra-ASEAN tourism, which redounds to all our benefits; not only does it contribute to our respective growth agendas, it also fosters greater understanding and strengthens the ties that bind our people,” the President told the forum participants.
He further pointed out that ASEAN integration has made the regional grouping a more attractive destination for visitors from other parts of the world, and the entire region should capitalize on this.
The ASEAN, he said, can invite tourists from North America, South America and Europe.
“All our countries can attract tourists from these markets, at the same time, I submit, would it not be a more attractive value pack proposition to present tours that cover more, if not all, ASEAN countries in one sweep?” he said, adding that tourists who travel more than a day to experience Southeast Asia will likely not limit themselves to the Philippines alone but visit Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia as well.
“Towards maximizing the potential of ASEAN tourism, we can enhance connectivity even further,” the President said, noting that an ASEAN roll-on roll-off system has been in the works for sometime to enhance maritime connectivity.
Moreover, he said, the Philippines has done its part to facilitate ease of transport to and among its islands through the pocket open skies policy that gives foreign airlines unlimited takeoff, landing, and passenger conveyance rights to all Philippine airports except Manila.
At the same time, the government has also implemented the Tourism Road Infrastructure Program (TRIP) to make tourism sites more accessible, he said, adding that of 463 projects, 111 have been completed; and 352 are ongoing, under procurement or undergoing detailed engineering designs.
“As such, I encourage all of you today to engage our brothers and sisters from the region. Share your thoughts and experiences freely and build consensus the ASEAN way, with the goal of progressing as one region,” he said.
The ASEAN Tourism Forum is a cooperative regional effort to promote the ASEAN region as one tourist destination.
The annual event involves the respective tourism industry sectors of the 10 member nations of the ASEAN—Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. (MNS)