Visa-free travel to EU urged by Asean
Major Asean tourism associations have called for new strategies and greater cooperation to strengthen the industry.
The Federation of Asean Travel Associations (Fata) is calling on the EU to offer visa-free travel to Asean citizens, reciprocating the courtesy Europeans receive from Asean countries. The Asean Tourism Association (Aseanta) has further urged tourism stakeholders to work on marketing penetration.
The two major tourism associations floated the proposals to public and private organisations gathered at the Asean Tourism Forum 2018, being held in Chiang Mai this week.
Hamzah Rahmat, president of Fata, said he plans to move on a visa agreement between Asean and Europe, allowing visa-free access.
"Most European nationals are able to travel in Asean without a visa, so [Asean nationals] should get the same treatment," he said.
Mr Rahmat said Southeast Asia contributes a large number of outbound tourists globally. Several countries such as Japan have already relaxed their visa restrictions and enjoy a lot more visitors from the region.
Fata will soon write to the EU calling for visa negotiations as well as other tourism-related talks.
Cheah Swee Hee, president of Aseanta, said it has just begun holding serious talks with airlines and national tourism organisations in Southeast Asia, calling on them to work together in promoting more niche market segments such as Muslims.
"Major national tourism organisations such as those from Thailand and Indonesia as well as AirAsia, Philippines Airlines and Thai Airways International have talked over how to work and drive tourism together," Mr Hee said.
He said that each airline has a pre-existing strategy and business plan and can offer pointers to others, helping the entire travel industry grow.
Moreover, national tourism organisations should rethink how they work with other organisations such as airport authorities and airlines if they want to bring tourists to their destinations, Mr Hee said.
Aseanta has further discussed how to boost Muslim tourism throughout the region by developing more specific attractions for this market.
The association is also talking with the Asean Hotels and Restaurant Association regarding preparation of Halal food for Muslim travellers.
Some 40% of the population of Southeast Asia is Muslim, with Indonesia and Malaysia the key source markets.
At the same event, Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said it has launched the "Amazing Thailand Tourism Year 2018" campaign to strengthen the Thai tourism industry and build environmental awareness among key industry stakeholders nationwide.
The goal is greater sustainability, with a focus on quality tourism that generates higher economic value for Thailand, while also distributing income to other regions of the country.
The agency targets tourism income of 3 trillion baht this year and 37 million international arrivals.
Supawan Teerarat, senior vice-president of strategic business development and innovation at the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, said it will promote meetings, incentives, conventions and business exhibitions in major and second-tier cities to offer travellers more destinations, generating revenue for the local economy.