VIENTIANE, 22 January 2013: The 32nd ASEAN Tourism Forum officially opened in Vientiane on Sunday, as tourism leaders come to grips with the challenges they will face to integrate tourism once the ASEAN Economic Community kicks in December 2015.
The introduction of AEC has already been delayed from January to December 2015 to give the 10 member countries more time to adjust regulations and come up to speed on AEC principles.
Ensuring a level playing field in the tourism’s industry employment and human resources was the main topic of the two-day government meetings. ASEAN is made up of contrasting economies such as the mature economies of Singapore and Malaysia and the emerging economies of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. How governments will protect weaker members is a major concern as the AEC era approaches.
On the sidelines of a weekend packed with meetings officials told TTR Weekly the challenges to maintain fairness in human resources and safeguard employment opportunities for their citizens. A free moving labour market causes considerable concern in tourism and hospitality sectors.
The regional forum when it closes will have seen an attendance of around 2,000 made up of government officials who are already preparing to leave after their private meetings ended Monday. More than 900 travel sellers are now arriving for the opening of the ATF’ TRAVEX trade show. There are around 470 travel buyers attending the show, representing less than a quarter of the total turnout. Most of them are fully hosted with the organisers paying for hotels and airline transport.
ASEAN’s tourism ministers have held meetings over the weekend with dialogue partners — China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India and Russia.
Lao PDR’s Prime Minister, Thongsing Thammavong, alluded to the historic significance of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 during the opening ceremony of the 32nd ATF.
“This is a large group of nations in Southeast Asia with diverse languages, cultures, customs and traditions,” he told delegates. “Today we offer attractive tourism resources, making the ASEAN bloc one of the most desirable destinations in Asia.”
The region attracted 81.1 million visitors in 2011 and that is expected to increase by around 15% in 2012.
The 32nd forum has a theme of “ASEAN – Hand in Hand, Conquering Our Future”.
The ASEAN tourism exhibition held at Lao-ITECC has 498 seller booths, and 997 sellers from the 10 ASEAN member countries. They will make appointments with 470 buyers over the three-day sessions.
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