I. Introduction

1. ASEAN cooperation in tourism was formalised in 1976 following the formation of the Sub-Committee on Tourism (SCOT) under the ASEAN Committee on Trade and Tourism. ASEAN SCOT had been effective in initiating regional tourism projects in the functional areas of promotion, marketing and research.

2. The most concrete achievements of ASEAN tourism cooperation were the Visit ASEAN Year 1992 Campaign (VAY ’92), the hosting of the ASEAN Tourism Forum as an annual event since 1981, and the establishment of the ASEAN Tourism Information Centre in 1988 as a central coordinating arm. Six ASEAN Promotional Chapters for Tourism were also established in major tourist markets. Technical assistance from the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea had been provided for ASEAN tourism marketing, research and training activities.

3. For the period 1991-1995, growth of ASEAN tourism was phenomenal. It was more than two-fold the world’s arrivals and, over that of the Asia-Pacific region. ASEAN tourism is expected to grow by 7.6% p.a. and 4.9% p.a., up to the year 2000 and 2001-2005, respectively. Travel and tourism also presents promising economic gains to the ASEAN region up to year 2007. For Southeast Asia, it is expected to create employment for an additional 21 million jobs (from the 1997 level of 26 million) and will experience 125% growth in capital investment from US $ 27 billion level in 1997. The original ASEAN Member Countries (ASEAN 5) will have significant share of tourist arrivals in the order of 37 million and 47 million, respectively, up to year 2000 and 2001-2005.

4. The Fifth ASEAN Summit held in Bangkok on 15 December 1995 set the current direction for ASEAN Member Countries to focus on promoting sustainable tourism development, preservation of cultural and environmental resources, the provision of transportation and other infrastructure, simplification of immigration procedures and human resources development.

5. ASEAN Member Countries recognise the strategic role of the Tourism Sector in their economic growth and for the ASEAN region, and in advancing the rich and diverse social, cultural and historical heritage and image of ASEAN. In 1996, ASEAN countries, including Cambodia, received 31.7 million tourists with total receipts of US $ 31 billion. Thus, the ASEAN tourism sector collectively contributed significant gain to the regional economy, an equivalent of 9.1 % of total exports and 4.9 % of regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

6. Taking cognisance of the above opportunities, the 6th Meeting of the ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) held in Singapore on 17-18 July 1997 agreed to formulate the Plan of Action for ASEAN Cooperation in Tourism. This Plan would then be submitted for consideration of the first formal meeting of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers in Mactan, Cebu, Philippines on 10 January 1998. A draft Ministerial Understanding on ASEAN Cooperation in Tourism was likewise endorsed, for consideration and approval of the Tourism Ministers at their Cebu meeting.

7. This Plan of Action is a strategic document that will provide greater tourism interaction and cooperation and bind ASEAN Member Countries into a more solidly cohesive regional alliance into the new millennium.

II. Objectives

8. The ASEAN tourism sector will definitely benefit from the increasing affluence and strong economic growth of the Member Countries brought about by the rapid political and economic changes driven by the continuing globalisation process for trade and investment, and the advances in transport, telecommunications and information technology, among others. ASEAN also has much to offer with the inherent diversity in terms of peoples, lifestyle, culture, religion and culinary experience, together with the rich natural landscape and deep historical heritage. The objectives, therefore, of ASEAN cooperation in the tourism sector are:

  1. To develop and promote ASEAN as a single and collective tourism destination with world class standards, facilities and attractions
  2. To enhance cooperation in the tourism sector among Member Countries, involving both public and private sectors, in order to achieve facilitation of intra-ASEAN travel and free trade and investment in tourism services; and
  3. To provide a common forum for discussion of major issues and developments in travel and tourism.


III. Areas for Enhanced Tourism Cooperation

9. ASEAN cooperation in tourism will be intensified in areas such as investment policy, tourism development planning, human resources development, environmental and cultural preservation, to achieve continued and long-term viability of the ASEAN tourism industry. Meaningful cooperation can be best attained through the strengthening of the existing linkages in the tourism sector in both public and private sectors of ASEAN Member Countries, with Member Countries incorporating and promoting regional common needs-oriented programmes into ongoing national programmes and through greater participation of the private sector. The following shall be the general activities to enhance cooperation in ASEAN tourism:

  1. Exchange of information and experience;
  2. Coordination and/or harmonisation of tourism policies and programmes;
  3. Marketing, training, research and information dissemination;
  4. Facilitation of intra-ASEAN travel;
  5. Promotion of tourism incentives to facilitate the development of tourism infrastructure and other related travel and tourism facilities;
  6. Promotion of private sector participation and enhancing public-private sector collaboration;
  7. Closer cooperation with ASEAN Dialogue Partners and other emerging markets to promote tourism to ASEAN ; and
  8. Joint approaches in addressing international and regional tourism issues in areas of common interest.

IV. Strategies and Actions

10. The following strategies and supporting actions will be implemented to achieve the abovestated objectives.

Marketing the ASEAN region as a
single tourist destination with multi-faceted
attractions and world class standards and facilities

11. ASEAN Member Countries acquired considerable experience and success in promoting the region during the Visit ASEAN Year 1992 (VAY ’92), in line with the 25th Anniversary of ASEAN. This special promotional activity intended to increase visitor traffic and stimulate growth of intra-ASEAN travel highlighted the unique attributes of ASEAN in terms of its heritage, culture, shopping and attractions. More importantly, VAY ’92 was a showcase of the strong commitment of the ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs), the keen and coordinated partnership of the public and private sector, as well as the ASEAN Dialogue Partners, in the effective and fruitful realisation of the collective event.

12. Above success, no doubt, has to be progressively replicated by Member Countries, moreso in the light of the fierce competition from other regions in the world for a viable and sustainable tourism niche, and to meet the challenges of the changing attitudes and behavior of the global tourism industry.

13. A concerted common action by ASEAN Member Countries to embark on joint tourism programme is imperative to provide the ASEAN region a more eventful, appealing and powerful product image as a destination in the Asia-Pacific region and a strong institutional boost to highlight the brilliance and variety of ASEAN tourism experience. This joint promotional and marketing programme also provides a platform for intensified cooperation of both public and private sectors in ASEAN Member Countries, either on an individual or collective basis. In this regard, a regional action programme to collectively promote and market ASEAN as a single destination must have to be evolved. Maintaining the international competitiveness of ASEAN as a tourism destination also poses continuing challenge and development of a regional tourism masterplan as well as increased funding support for promotion and marketing will be an important consideration in the process. The required actions are the following:


  • Promote ASEAN as a single destination, offering thematic tour packages/attractions. This will allow visitors to explore the region and focus on specific areas of interest.
  • Promote and market selected ASEAN countries in twin – or multi – tour packages so that visitors can enjoy the multi-faceted attractions of the ASEAN region
  • Hold ASEAN-wide events during a designated period of the year. These events will be run concurrently so that visitors can hop from one ASEAN destination to another to experience a full spectrum of exciting events. Each event will feature a particular theme such as ASEAN cuisine or ASEAN art
  • Intensify tourism networking and contacts in target niches or source markets and in international tourism and travel trade fairs, through roadshows, publication of ASEAN market guides and travel brochures, including travel film, and cross-cultural travel schools, workshops and seminars involving, among others, travel agents, tour operators and media specialists
  • Intensify public-private sector partnership as an effective marketing and promotion force under the auspices of the ASEAN Tourism Association (ASEANTA), the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) and other relevant bodies
  • Strengthen institutional support through responsive marketing policies/strategies of the ASEAN NTOs, the ASEAN Promotional Chapters for Tourism (APCTs), and active involvement of the ASEAN Communication Team for Tourism (ACTT) in the conduct of public relations and other activities to promote ASEAN travel
  • Establish an ASEAN Tourism Fund for joint promotion and marketing activities
  • Produce an ASEAN Directory of Tourism Products and Services, in print form and as Internet on-line information
  • Enhance programmes to ensure safety and security of international travellers


Encouraging Tourism Investments under a More Competitive Regime

14. The travel and tourism industry is an important growth industry providing substantial foreign exchange receipts and employment opportunities. It is woven into the fabric of domestic and international trade through travellers’ actions and consumption pattern to cover transportation, accomodation, catering/retail, recreation and other travel-related services. In some Member Countries, tourism ranks among the largest service sectors and has a major role in improving trade and business links. With its strategic role in the regional economy, ASEAN tourism has to keep pace with globalisation trends and market liberalisation, to enhance the opportunity for travel business to expand and compete across national borders and attract investments and technology to sustain the long-term viability of the tourism industry. The related actions are the following:


  • Improve further the commitments and schedule in the Tourism Service Sector under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services. New Members of ASEAN to be on board as soon as possible
  • Coordinate and/or harmonise tourism investment policies and programmes, with the view to evolve common investment policies and priorities.
  • Develop an ASEAN tourism investment guide, to foster transparency, among others, of the systems, procedures and regulations related to tourism investments in Member Countries
  • Encourage joint investment missions to third countries. A Member Country can initiate joint investment missions with other Member Countries and promote the region as an attractive area for tourism investments
  • Remove barriers and lengthy procedures that constrain or inhibit the flow of foreign investments, including the mobility of corporate participants, managerial and professional/technical expertise and other manpower to improve quality and efficiency of tourism services
  • Facilitate free movement of manpower engaged in the travel and tourism industry


Developing a Critical Pool of Tourism Manpower

15. Travel and tourism is a human resource intensive industry and the availability of skilled and trained manpower is a crucial element in the success of any tourism development plan or programme. More importantly, people makes a vital difference in the attractiveness of a Member Country as a destination, in addition to the natural and cultural tourism assets, and thus investment in HRD is an integral part of any tourism plan or programme.

16. For 1997, travel and tourism is expected to generate employment for 260 million people across the global economy. By the year 2007, employment forecast is about 383 million, or well over 100 million new jobs created worldwide over the next decade. Regional analysis shows that Asia-Pacific generates the most travel and tourism related jobs – 173 million, with an additional 21 million new jobs created by year 2007 in Southeast Asia, with, e.g., Indonesia having 1.9 million new jobs.

17. Against this backdrop, continued emphasis in tourism education and training is necessary, not only to sustain ASEAN’s competitive advantage, but for the upgrading of skills to address the demand for improved levels of quality, service and professionalism in the tourism and travel industry. The actions necessary will be the following:


  • Cooperate in HRD activities (tourism education and training), by sharing resources , skills and training facilities, e.g., networking of tourism training centres/institutes, provision of technical assistance and experts, emphasis on new job skills and new technologies, training of trainors, etc.
  • Intensify public-private partnership in HRD activities, through relevant training bodies, ASEANTA and other regional/international tourism organisations such as PATA, WTTC, WTO, etc.
  • Conduct training needs assessment, to ascertain manpower needs and tourism HRD and skills requirements


Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Tourism

18. The World Wide Fund for Nature estimated that the US $ 55 billion earned from tourism in developing countries, about US $ 12 billion stems from ecotourism. However, the growth of tourism endangers the development of indigeneous populations and communities, not to mention the adverse environmental effects on the natural landscape, on the built environment, and on flora, fauna and animal life. In some countries, ecotourism development can be a potential economic and social concern, in view of limited land areas near natural and cultural attractions and the growing resentment by local residents in some destinations. Thus, ASEAN Member Countries have to evolve common approaches to address environmental management and protection to be an integral part of the tourism development process, contribute to the conservation, protection and restoration of the natural areas and ecosystems, and at the same time, provide benefits to the local communities. In this regard, the following actions will be pursued.


  • Assess existing capacity of economic and regulatory institutions to bring about sustainable tourism. Integrate tourism development strategies with land-use planning and conservation strategies
  • Develop guidelines for assessing and monitoring tourism impact on culture and local environment, especially in environmentally and culturally sensitive areas
  • Mount public information and awareness programmes, in collaboration with the media, to educate and gain acceptance of sustainable tourism by the public, especially at the local community-level
  • Ensure public-private partnership in the planning for sustainable tourism development. Involve local citizen participation thoroughly in the planning process


Facilitating Seamless Intra-ASEAN Travel

19. For tourism to prosper, the facilities that tourists demand must be in place, i.e. airports, hotels, surface transport and other life-support services like water, telecommunications and power. Lack of these tourist-related support infrastructure undoubtedly constrains the growth of tourism.

20. Accessibility is a key requirement for the success of tourism, and it would be imperative to connect every tourist destination in ASEAN into the overall integrated transport and communications network that moves peoples, information and goods swiftly. A tourism boom is usually accompanied by a rapid growth in air travel and is also greatly influenced by aviation policy.

21. The total of Asian air passengers grew by 6.9 % in 1996, and a remarkable 19.1 % in 1995. Nearly 94 million Asians travelled as tourists in 1996, surpassing the number of tourists from North America for the first time ever, and with 50 % travelling in Asia, up from 40% in 1980. With ASEAN Member Countries to continue to be among the most important countries of destinations for air visitors to Asia-Pacific into the 21st century, Member Countries are expected to experience heavy strain on their airport infrastructure and airline capacity, hotel accomodations, and means of transportation. Thus, Member Countries must sustain support for a liberal international trading system in general, and for policy reforms for more competitive aviation services, liberalisation of telecommunications and tourism infrastructure expansion, in particular. Member Countries must also support reforms to rationalise or eliminate barriers impeding tourism growth. In this context, the associated actions are the following:


  • Streamline inspection processes and formalities at national borders/frontiers. Expand the “ASEAN Lane” to other international gateways, wherever feasible. Standardise customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) systems and procedures. Explore using smart passports or smart cards for automatic border clearance, and expanding visa waivers
  • Support continuing liberalisation reforms of the air and sea transport and telecommunications sectors. Air and sea transport are vitally important parts of tourism development, to spur long-haul travel and create new tourism destinations. Telecommunications, on the other hand, is the medium for virtually all sales and distribution transactions in the travel and tourism industry. Encourage use of the Internet or other electronic global distribution systems in the ASEAN travel industry
  • Expand the ASEAN circle and promotional fares
  • Increase direct air links between secondary cities and tourism areas in ASEAN
  • Improve infrastructure for cruise traffic so as to enhance cruise tourism in the region
  • Support the proposed Trans-ASEAN networks in road, rail, waterways, and telecommunications
  • Rationalise or eliminate barriers impeding tourism growth e.g. travel tax imposition

V. Tourism Statistical Database

22. Sharing of information and data, on a regular basis, shall be an integral element of ASEAN cooperation in the tourism sector. This regular exchange is very useful for the access and reference by individual Member Countries and their private sector as a tool for policy review and analysis and for tourism planning and research. In this regard, an ASEAN tourism website, linking the resource centres of ASEAN Member Countries, will be set-up. The ASEAN Communication Team for Tourism (ACTT) shall establish a complementary system for information sharing and dissemination during crisis or other situations that require rapid contact and communication between ASEAN NTOs.

VI. Institutional Arrangement

23. In endorsing this Plan of Action, it must be recognised that its successful implementation requires the collective commitment, coordination and cooperation of the ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) and other concerned agencies and officials. Greater involvement of the ASEAN tourism private sector is also a key element in the Plan’s implementation.

24. In the implementation of the Plan of Action, the ASEAN NTOs shall be responsible for the following:

  1. Serve as the principal coordinating body to address all issues relating to its implementation;
  2. Undertake all measures for its implementation, including the approval of the necessary cooperation programmes, projects and activities;
  3. Identify financial support and relevant technologies from within and outside ASEAN, to include but not limited to the private sector, the ASEAN Dialogue Partners and other regional or international organisations; and
  4. Report on the implementation progress to the ASEAN Tourism Ministers at their annual meetings.

25. The ASEAN NTOs would convene Working Groups and/or special meetings consisting of the ASEAN Member Countries to further elaborate on the modalities for implementation, in general, and the preparation of the associated work programmes/plans, project proposals/documents, in particular. The host country and/or the country coordinator for the cooperation programmes would be subject to mutual agreement by the ASEAN NTOs. Implementation of the approved work programmes/plans shall be further carried out by Member Countries, through designated focal points.

26. The ASEAN Promotional Chapters for Tourism (APCTs) and the ASEAN Communication Team for Tourism (ACTT) shall serve as the extension arms of the ASEAN NTOs in the implementation of the Plan of Action.

27. The ASEAN Secretariat shall assist the ASEAN NTOs in carrying out the above responsibilities, including technical support and assistance in the supervision, coordination and review of the cooperation programmes, projects and activities. The ASEAN Secretariat shall also coordinate and monitor all approved activities with the relevant ASEAN coordinating bodies and concerned focal points and/or agencies of the Member Countries.

28. Finally, in pursuance of the principles under the Framework Agreement on Enhancing ASEAN Economic Cooperation concluded on 28 January 1992, all Member States shall participate in intra-ASEAN economic arrangements. However, in the implementation of these economic arrangements, two or more Member States may proceed first if other Member States are not ready to implement these arrangements. Similarly, the Bangkok Summit Declaration of 1995 provided that all ASEAN economic cooperation decisions shall be made by flexible consensus so that Member Countries wishing to embark on any cooperation scheme may do so while the others can join at a later date.