ASEAN’S showcase tourism initiative will be held in Chiang Mai next month as a key element of a plan to boost growth in the number of visitors from outside the region by up to 6 per cent next year, the Tourism and Sports Ministry's permanent secretary, Pongpanu Svetarundra, said in the northern city yesterday.
Foreign tourists visiting the region from non-Asean states this year numbered about 120 million, up 7 per cent from 2016, Pongpanu said.
The Asean Tourism Forum (ATF) 2018 will be held from January 22-26, at the Shangri-La hotel in Chiang Mai with the aim of promoting Asean as a “Single Tourism Destination” to attract more visitors from around the globe, he said.
Thailand also expects to see growth of up to 10 per cent in the number of visitors next year from this year, generating income at tourist businesses of up to Bt3.1 trillion, compared with Bt2.76 trillion this year, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry at a press conference early this month.
Pongpanu said the Chiang Mai forum would bring together tourism ministers, the heads of national tourism organisations, high-ranking delegations, and key players in the tourism industry from Asean countries, as well as their dialogue partners.
In addition, it would provide a significant platform in underlining the strengths of Thailand and other Asean countries as tourism markets in the eyes of world, especially among the pact’s dialogue partners: China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and India, he said.
“Asean's tourist ministers also will meeting to discuss the introduction of a single visa for Asean as this is a part of our move to make the Asean Single Destination concept come to fruition,” he said.
“However, this agenda will require discussions among more parties. We will consider the issue but the final say will come down to the individual governments.”
He added that the forum also would provide for a meeting between officials of Asean and China, which now counts as the largest source market for tourism to the region. The talks would look at ways to collaborate on initiatives to boost tourism flows between Asean countries and China over the long term.
“The Asean Tourism Forum is an integral stage to seek further collaboration within the region to enhance the inclusive development of Asean tourism. The forum will cover several key aspects such as gastronomy tourism, cruise tourism, and community-based tourism, among many others. In line with the Asean Tourism Strategic Plan of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), the forum emphasises the promotion of the region's sustainable and inclusive tourism. This conforms to the World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development and our Amazing Thailand Tourism Year 2018 campaign,” Pongpanu added.
Dr Walailak Noypayak, an executive director for Asean, South Asia and the South Pacific region of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the event would draw up to 300 tourism buyers from countries and regions such as Japan, the US, Europe and the Middle East to meet with as many as 200 tourism sellers from Asean countries.”
“We expect the market value from this meeting will be at least Bt2 billion from the event itself and afterwards,” she said.
Meanwhile, the forum will create benefits for Chiang Mai province to be promoted as a key destination for Asean and global tourism .
The province hosts 10 million visitors a year, with up to 70 per cent coming from within Thailand, she said.
Over the five days of the forum, income of more than Bt100 million is expected to be generated from the more than 700 visitors to the event, Walailak estimates.
The Asean Tourism Forum is an annual event that was first held in 1981 in Malaysia, under the Asean Framework Agreement.
Asean countries take it in turns to host the host the event, in alphabetical order. As for Thailand, the country has earned a great honour to host the ATF six times – in 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2008. Thailand will once again be a proud host of ATF in 2018, tourism officials say.