THE tourism industry will serve as a key driver for Asean countries to increase their investments in infrastructure and improve the living standards of people within the region, said Wouter Schalken, senior tourism specialist of the World Bank Group.
The sustained investment in infrastructure projects – with funds from the private and public sectors – is part of broader development efforts that will raise people’s quality of life, Schalken said at the Asean-Korea Tourism Investment Seminar 2018 in Seoul last week.
“Most of the Asean countries are relaxing their rules for open foreign investors to expand their investments, such as by offering tax holidays, long leases and the like,” he said. “These measures are part of the efforts being undertaken to improve infrastructure in these countries and thus help them serve the needs of the rising number of tourists within the region.”
Aladdin D. Rillo, deputy secretary general of the Asean Economic Community of the Asean Secretariat, told the seminar that there is a timeline for Asean tourism that looks to goals achieved by 2025. The Asean region will be promoted as a quality tourism destination offering a unique, diverse Asean experience, and that governments across the region will be committed to responsible, sustainable and inclusive tourism development, so as to contribute significantly to the socio-economic well-being of people in the region.
“The continued development of the tourism industry will contribute more income to people in Asean and improve their quality of living, and this is vital for the region’s development,” Rillo said,
To achieve the target, Asean countries must improve their infrastructure and act on the digital transformation that is required to improve the ecosystem for tourism and, in doing so, cope with the rising number of visitors,” he said.
Under the Asean tourism vision for 2025, two main strategic objectives must be accomplished. First, the competitiveness of Asean as a single global destination must be enhanced. For this, marketing and promotion efforts must be intensified to support the creation of unique Asean travel experiences and destinations.
It is essential that the infrastructure requirements be met. This will involve expanding connectivity, upgrading standards for tourist facilities and services, while enhancing travel facilitation, safety and security. A key factor in achieving this objective will be to attract investment in Asean tourism, the seminar was told.
The second challenge will be to ensure that Asean tourism is sustainable and inclusive. This can come about by reinforcing local community and public-private sector participation in the tourism value chain; improving safety and security; prioritising the protection and maintenance of natural and cultural heritage and increasing the responsiveness of Asean tourism to environmental protection and climate change.
It is anticipated that, if the strategic programmes and projects are fully resourced and implemented, by 2025 the GDP contribution of Asean tourism could potentially increase from 12 per cent to 15 per cent, with tourism’s share alone of total employment rising from 3.7 per cent to 7 per cent. It is predicted that the per capita spending by international tourists could increase from US$877 to US$1,500 even as the average length of stay of international tourist arrivals goes up from 6.3 nights to eight nights, according to the Asean tourism vision for 2025.
As the end of year 2017, Asean had hosted 120 million international tourists, with estimates that the number of international visitors will increase at an average of 4 per cent a year. This would see the total number of such tourists reach up to 200 million in 2030.
In line with the ambitions for the Asean tourism industry, Lee Hyuk, secretary general of the Asean-Korea Centre, told the seminar that tourism is an important and key driving force for the region’s economy. “There were 120 million international arrivals in 2017. This is an incredible number,” Lee said. “Also, it is estimated that tourism contributed to 12.4 per cent of GDP in Asean, which is about 4 per cent higher than for most others regions around the world.”
Tourism generates growth, creates jobs, and enables regional development. “Most importantly, it presents plenty of opportunities for investment cooperation, drawing great attention from potential investors around the world including Korea,” Lee said.
The Asean Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 will contribute to the competitiveness of the Asean tourism industry and ensure sustainable and inclusive tourism in the region, he said.
“This presents a challenge for Korean investors to expand their investment in tourism in Asean countries. This is one of the objectives of the Asean-Korea Centre, helping to drive the investment flows for the benefit of all parties,” he said.