Vang Vieng, Lao PDR


Tourism has been one of the hardest hit sectors by the COVID-19 outbreak last year. In 2020, ASEAN member states preliminary reported that compared to the same period in 2019, the tourism sector suffered a loss of approximately 75.8 per cent in tourism receipts, international arrivals declined by approximately 80.5 per cent, the rate of hotel room occupancy was at its lowest, with the travel and tour industry also experiencing massive cancellations in 2020.

Despite the challenges posed in 2020, ASEAN Tourism Ministers commended tireless efforts by the ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) and its Committees and Working Groups in coming up with mitigation and action plans to circumvent the impact, to continue implementing the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016-2025.

Photo: Borneo Bulletin

These was stated in a joint statement following the 24th Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers (24th ATM) on February 4, through video conference hosted by Kingdom of Cambodia, where the ministers highlighted three priority areas – the ‘Road to Recovery’; ‘Towards ASEAN as a Single Tourism Destination’; and ‘Realising Sustainable, Inclusive and Resilient Tourism Development’.

Minister of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia Dr Thong Khon chaired the meeting, while Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy of Indonesia Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno as the Vice-Chairman.

Brunei Darussalam was represented by Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Apong.

The ministers also commended the active role of the lead countries in implementing the strategic action programmes under the ATSP in creative and innovative ways by using digital technology to maintain the momentum of the tourism sector and enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN as a single tourism destination.

They endorsed the updated ATSP 2016-2025, which reflects the strategic direction of future cooperation in the tourism sector to be more resilient, sustainable and inclusive, taking into account lessons learnt from the pandemic and the latest developments in the tourism industry. The ministers encouraged ASEAN NTOs and its subsidiary bodies to continue strengthening cooperation and collaboration with all stakeholders including other ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, the private sector, and the community to contribute towards the realisation of the ASEAN integration goals by 2025.

On the ‘Road to Recovery’, the ministers took note of the progress of the implementation of the key priorities in the Joint Statement of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers on Strengthening Cooperation to Revitalise ASEAN Tourism laid out by the Special Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers via video conference on April 29, 2020. The ministers welcomed the Study on the Impact of COVID-19, and the Recommendations for Policies and Best Practices for the Post- COVID-19 Recovery Plan for ASEAN Tourism in December 2020, supported by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Trade and Investment Facility for Development (CTIF).

The ministers also supported the development of a Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan, based on the study, as one of the priority economic deliverables during Brunei Darussalam’s ASEAN Chairmanship this year.

The ministers noted the progress report of the study and looked forward to receiving the final report with the recommendations and work plan in the first quarter of 2021.

They also took note that the ASEAN NTOs, with the support of the Australian government through the Australia-ASEAN Development Cooperation Programme Phase 2, are developing guidelines on hygiene and safety for workers and communities in the tourism industry, to be concluded in 2021. The guidelines would further enhance public confidence and trust for the restart of tourism in the region.

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