ASEAN Tourism Ministers Make Plans to Gradually Reopen ASEAN Tourism
The 25th Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers held on 19 January 2022 in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, exchanged views on the way forward for the recovery of the region’s tourism industry. Bearing the theme “ASEAN – A Community of Peace and Shared Future,” the Meeting discussed the impact of COVID-19 on each ASEAN member state and emphasized the development of the tourism sector amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Decline in Tourist Growth
Based on the preliminary figures of 2021, the ASEAN tourism sector continued to suffer declines in tourism receipts by approximately 94.33%, and a sharp decline in international arrivals by approximately 90.03%. Average hotel rate occupancy also went down by 27.45%, even amid vaccination programs enabling domestic travel.
Adapting Business Models in Preparation for Reopening
The Meeting highlighted preparations undertaken that will pave the way for the industry to bounce back and recapture growth. These include (i) how the tourism sector has adapted and pivoted to new business models; (ii) highlighting the importance of expediting the implementation of the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan for ASEAN Tourism that was endorsed in September 2021; (iii) and encouraging ASEAN National Tourism Organizations and their subsidiary bodies to continue strengthening cooperation and collaboration with all relevant stakeholders including other ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, the private sector, ASEAN Dialogue/Sectoral Dialogue/Development Partners and the community in order to contribute towards the recovery of the tourism sector more comprehensively.
ASEAN Tourism to Gradually Reopen
The Meeting agreed to announce the gradual reopening of ASEAN Tourism. It noted the development of Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan for ASEAN Tourism and the ASEAN Guidelines on Hygiene and Safety for Professionals and Communities in the Tourism Industry.
The Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan for ASEAN Tourism provides detailed regional plans, new mandates and innovative measures for ASEAN, as a region, for safe reopening of the tourism sector. It focuses on the following five pillars under “Reopening, Recovery and Resilience” phases: (i) to support tourism businesses with recovery and adaptation to the requirements; (ii) to enable safe and seamless restoration of intra-ASEAN and international travels; (iii) to ensure that recovery is underpinned by principles of sustainability and inclusivity; (iv) to reinvent tourism services to drive competitiveness; and (v) to prepare for long-term resilience and crisis preparedness.
The ASEAN Guidelines on Hygiene and Safety for Professionals and the Communities in the Tourism Industry focuses on eight tourism and tourism-related sectors. These include accommodation, restaurants, facilities, spa and wellness, ecotourism/community-based tourism, travel and tour operation, theme parks and convention centers.
The resumption of travel will follow each ASEAN Member State’s current travel policies and regulation, and COVID-19 situation, is subject to the respective ASEAN Member States’ health protocol, current travel policies and regulations and current COVID developments.
The Meeting also emphasized special focus on supporting tourism Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and promoting equal opportunities to enhance jobs for local communities, particularly for women, youth, minorities as well as vulnerable groups. The Meeting also highlighted the need to take advantage of digital technology to boost tourism workers’ capacity and capability through reskilling and upskilling to ensure relevancy.
Read the full Statement.