The time has come for Asia’s travel leaders to stand as a united front: Travel Weekly Asia

The 10th ASEAN Tourism Research Association (ATRA) Tourism Forum on
Tuesday, 15 March saw a confluence of industry experts unanimously
advocating for increased collaboration between governments in Asia in
order to strengthen tourism in the region.

Speaking at the ‘Unlock the Borders & Reboot ASEAN Tourism’ ATF
forum, Musa Hj Yusof, deputy director general of Tourism Malaysia holds
the conviction that regional cooperation among Southeast Asian countries
is fundamental in giving the travel comeback a much-needed boost.

“The Southeast Asian countries will need to work together at the
regional level, primarily through ASEAN mechanisms. The first order of
business is to facilitate cross-border movement of travellers,” Musa
said. “Countries need to mutually recognise each other’s vaccination
certificates, harmonise rules on travel procedures, and safeguard public
health to manage the spread of the virus.”

The digital component that is increasingly being adopted by
government officials, hospitality players and travel partners is an
important element that can also be leveraged in collaborative efforts to
spur the successful return of travel, according to Musa who believes
that “as countries implement contactless technologies or mobile bookings
and online payments for tourism-related transactions, they should also
cooperate regionally on cross-border data flow for information related
to vaccine passports or digital health certificates.”

He
substantiated his point for the need of increased collaboration by
referencing an October 2020 global survey conducted by UNWTO. Majority
of tourism experts polled cited the lack of coordinated response among
countries
as one of the key factors impeding the progress of
international travel in the Asia Pacific region.

Almost
600 million people in the Asia region have been shut off from their
neighbouring countries for nearly two years. And even though more
countries in Asia are gradually reopening to tourists now
, each
destination’s varying travel restrictions
and safety protocols still
serve as a deterrence to travellers.

Executive
editor of Travel Impact Newswire, Imtiaz Muqbil, further pointed out
that not only is the pandemic still affecting travel, the Russia-Ukraine
war
has additionally brought the level of global instability and
insecurity to its highest since the end of World War II and it will
seriously impact tourism since travellers prioritise safety and
security
.

“Crises
are the rule, no longer the exception. We need to build a new world
order with tourism playing a role driven by research and data. Our
tourism models need to be more holistic and to take a balanced approach
and focus more on the social and cultural side of Asia,” said Imtiaz.

Lessons learnt, Imtiaz surmised, is that intra-ASEAN travel and
domestic travel should take precedence in today’s climate, as many
national economies such as Thailand which once used to heavily rely on
international travel has suffered a huge blow from the pandemic.

Alongside working together to harmonise regulations and focus on
diverting travellers to travel the region as opposed to going out of it,
there are many more opportunities to drive the travel revival following
the pandemic. 

Luca Dotti, CEO and founder of HOMA Phuket has observed the rise of a
new trend — migration tourism — where travellers relocate for
short-term to long-term periods and work remotely from the location,
adding that these digital nomads are already prevalent in Europe and the
US.

“I haven’t seen a framework from ASEAN governments to tap into this
[market] which can additionally serve to attract talents that are needed
by the respective countries,” said Dotti. “But I do see Malaysia,
Thailand and Indonesia poised to be able to take advantage of this
as
they will be attractive for those wanting a more affordable lifestyle
with all the amenities.”

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