Tourism and travels play a vital role in the economic growth of the countries in Southeast Asia. It has helped in attracting an inflow of direct and indirect business ideas, created employment opportunities both to local and foreign residents and brought out low-cost and high-benefit economic activities using countries’ natural attributes.
However, tourism does not only bring economic developments. It is also is a platform to recognize and to appreciate the ethnic and cultural heritage. The uniqueness of each feature was also embraced and was now known to many due to this sector.
With the promises of tourism in mind, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held its 39th ASEAN Tourism Forum last January 12-16, 2020, at Brunei Darussalam. This was participated by the ten members of the association, namely: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Among the delegates are guests from around the world, including official meetings and TRAVEX representatives comprising the ASEAN exhibitors, international and local buyers, and media.
The aim of ATF is simple: to promote the ASEAN region as one tourist destination. This is evident in all the talks and agenda presented in the prestigious event. This year, they focused on “ASEAN – Together towards a Next Generation of Travel” as their theme.
ASEAN: Together Towards a Next Generation of Travel
2020 is a perfect year to address the future of travels of the ASEAN region. In the past decades, the ten countries worked hand-in-hand in promoting the region as a “single collective tourism destination with a culturally diverse variety of attractions and travel experiences.” They have hurdled the demands of time and have to laud their name due to its natural aesthetics and richness on heritage.
Today, a new set of challenges needs to be addressed, such as globalization, new eloquence, and technological advancements. These were given immediate consideration in the forum, which led to several changes. For instance, the association launched its new ASEAN Tourism website, www.VisitSEAsia.travel. This is timely due to the progress made in this technologically advanced era, where everything is made available on the fingertips. They also modified the ASEAN Tourism logo to provide a universally-known branding. In the old logo, the word “ASEAN” can still be found below the sun symbol. However, in the new one, the “ASEAN” wordmark is removed. This is to use a more recognized brand, that is, the Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, the ATF 2020 also presented Marketing Activities for this year and has released updates as to what specific activities and places each ASEAN member will highlight.
This 2020, Brunei Darussalam will be promoting adventure activities such as unexploited trekking areas. Therefore, tourists should watch out for destinations such as Temburong, a district in Brunei famous for its Ulu Temburong National Park and its Canopy Walk.
Visit Brunei 2020 also wants to highlight experiencing the tranquil beauty of lush greenery and coral reefs. They feature some of their known recreational parks, such as Tasek Lama Recreational Park and Bukit Shahbandar Recreational Park. Tasek Merimbun, an ASEAN Heritage Site, is also in the spotlight.
In addition, people should visit Tungku Beach, Kampong Ayer, Eco Ponie Garden, and Sumbiling Eco Village to experience the well-preserved historic settlements and recreational grounds for the local Brunei people. Moreover, the Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque is a must-see, too, to appreciate Muslim people and their values.
Cambodia is known to be one of the best in tourism attractions and investments in the ASEAN region. In the recently held ATF 2020, their plans for tourism in the country proved that they are indeed rightful for the title.
In the said forum, they were excited to announce prospects and plans for the New Phnom Penh International Airport. This effort is believed to draw more tourists in the country. They also prove promise for their Phnom Penh Shopping Center. Furthermore, they are very committed to developing the city capital, Phnom Penh, and enhancing the experience of nightlife in the metropolitan.
With the bright future of Cambodia Tourism due to the number of developments, they still are exerting efforts to promote cultural, natural, eco-tourism, and recreational activities. Specifically, beaches at Koh Rong and Koh Rang Samleon will lit up 2020.
According to Budianto Ardiansyah, Managing Director of Duta Leisure Indonesia, the government will be focusing more on tourist quality this year. They featured Lake Toba in the recent ATF 2020, along with Tongging Village, Pulisan Beach, Menara Pandang Tele, Tomok Village, Tarabunga Hill, Pusuk Buhit, Huta Ginjang, and Jangga Dolok Village.
Moreover, they are still highlighting some of their famous destinations, such as Medan, Raja Ampat, Bali, Banyuwangi, Bintan Island, and Jakarta.
Also known as Lao PDR, Laos has grown positively with relevance to tourism. This year, it further strengthened its partnership with neighboring countries such as Thailand and China for improvements on travel and market.
They highlighted ned developments in the recently held 39th ASEAN Tourism Forum. Some of the new tourist attractions and adventures to watch are the Buddhist Learning Center in Luang Prabang, Jungle Kayaking along Houay Bang Lieng River in Champassak, Thailand, and Laos Adventure with the new adventure operator – G Adventures, and luxurious treatment at the Red Rose Jazz Lounge. The iconic “The Plain Jars” in Central Laos was also recently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a treat to the influx of tourists this 2020.
Noran Bin Ujang, Director of International Promotion (South East Asia of Tourism Malaysia), said in a statement that the focus of Malaysia this 2020 is on sustainability tourism, arts, and culture. Due to this, tourists are highly anticipated to visit places such as George Town and Street Art in Pulau Pinang, Kelantan, and Pasar Seni in Kuala Lumpur.
They also feature historical and religious sites such as Cheng Hoon Teng, Masjid Sri Sendayan, Negeri Sembilan, Dataran Belanda, and Masjid Putra. Kampung Budaya Mari Mari, a historical village in Sabah, should also be visited by tourists for its heritage.
Aside from the culture and history, Malaysia also proudly identified destinations with fantastic scenery and activities such as Air Terjun Serendah and Perkampungan Budata Mah Meri, Selangor; Terennganu Drawbridge and Beach; Pulau Bohey Dulang, Sabah; Pulau Langkawi, Kedah; Cameron Highlands, Pahang; Hutan Belum and Gua Tempurang in Perak; Glamz in Genting Highlands; The TOP in Pulau Pinang; Pantai Tusan Miri and Kampung Budaya in Sarawak; Jalan Kaki Bukit, Perlis; Pulau Rawa, Johor; Adventure Waterpark Desaru Coast, Johor; Taman Tema Escape Park, Pulau Pinang; and Wilayah Persekutuan Labuan.
According to Kyaw Pyay Oo, Managing Director of Asian Tour Co., Ltd. (Mynamar), tourism in Myanmar this year eyes on seeking partnerships with adventure and incentive travel suppliers, DMCs, green products, and service providers; and establishing connections with hotels and resorts and travel management companies.
This dynamic country is serious about bringing sustainable tourism development this 2020. As a preparation, they monitored iconic destinations in the Philippines over the years, such as Boracay and Palawan. They also eyed Palawan, along with Mindanao, as places vital in strengthening economic cooperation and diverse culture within the ASEAN region. Specifically, infrastructure and service projects are directed towards El Nido and Coron to boost tourism while protecting the environment.
The Department of Tourism also urges tourists to discover Calabarzon, which lets visitors experience natural wonders, modern recreational resorts, and cultural and historical heritages.
Meanwhile, an influx of tourists is expected to arrive in Cebu starting January due to the Sinulog Festival. They also see Mactan Island as a frontrunner in terms of attracting trade and tourism this year. In addition, Cebu City and Mandaue City, both urbanized cities from the Province of Cebu, is viewed to play an essential role in the economic pillars of the country.
Singapore is considered to be a non-Muslim country, but it has garnered recognition for being one of the best in Halal-friendly destinations. This year, it is more committed to living with this name and has sharpened focus on Muslim-friendly tourism and Muslim-travel trends.
The Singapore Tourism Board announced at the ATF 2020 that they would bring halal dining offerings, discover hidden cultural activities, and feature local Malay entrepreneurs and business owners for tourists to discover.
Tourists shall anticipate places like Punggol, Coney Island, Kampong Glam, Bukit Timah, Newton, Tiong Bahru, Dawson, Katong, and Bugis.
Thailand is one of the top tourist destinations not only in Southeast Asia but in the world. This 2020, places like Sukhothai, Chiang Rai, and Trat are more likely to attract international tourists due to its rich pop culture.
On top of that, Thailand is also expecting tourists in their famous historical sites such as Sukhothai Historical Park and Phimai Historical Park. Included in their top destinations are Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phuket, Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani.
This country is becoming popular years pass by. Travelers from around the world are awed by the amazing destinations that speak culture, tradition, and tranquility. The government pledges plan to further improve transportation with this matter in mind as the number of tourists rises.
They see places such as Phu Quoc to boom in 2020, as people prefer less touristy destinations this year. Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong are still considered as a top-player due to the wide range of activities, food, people, and culture eminent in the said places.