It is with great pleasure that we announce the adoption of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan for the period 2011 2015. The plan development process which has encompassed 13 months of work by the ASEAN NTOs, dialogue partners as well as the private sector together with the consultants from the College of Innovation at Thammasat University has been a very open, innovative and effective process of analysis and decision-making. We wish to acknowledge the very generous support of USAID in the development of the strategic plan. The development of any strategic plan as we all know is a significant endeavor. When it involves 10 NTOs together with the private sector it has to be seen as a major achievement for the national tourism organizations.

The ASEAN Member States are about to enter a very exciting period of development in the ongoing evolution of the ASEAN Community. It is recognized that there are a wide range of issues to be considered within the Community. This strategic plan has been designed to complement these priorities while emphasizing tourism as an important element of the Community.

There is now increased awareness of the power of tourism as a tool for development and change. Poorly planned and managed tourism can have negative impacts on the host communities and their environment. However, with the increased sophistication of the Member States there is now every possibility that tourism can in fact help deal with many poverty and social issues as well as act as a strong supporter of heritage and natural conservation. In some cases tourism must be seen as transformative in its ability to bring about change and to achieve a wide range of social, cultural and economic goals. This has been well recognized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as well as others. It is important therefore that this plan be seen not simply as a document concerned with increasing international arrivals into the region but one that seeks to meet a number of societal goals. Within the document there has been an analysis of the plan’s contribution to various dimensions of the community.

The ASEAN National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) have done a great deal of commendable work and this plan builds on that successful record.

Tourism unlike some other areas of activity is an industry of industries embracing very large multinational corporations and small locally owned businesses in a wide range of activities. Public-sector tourism planning and development requires the cooperation and input of international organizations, national governments with their many partners impacting tourism right down to the local government level. It also has a ripple effect in a wide number of areas of human endeavor many of them within the informal sector. The plan has attempted to incorporate all of these concerns.

Throughout the planning process a wide number of recommendations were initially identified. Using a consensual process of decision-making priorities were carefully examined and determined. This plan therefore contains but a small part of a larger set of activities and actions that were proposed. Throughout the process the emphasis has been on identifying realistic initiatives that have a high possibility for success. The document has also been written in such a way that it is intended to be user-friendly and hopefully to be used as a guide for action over the five years of the plan. Throughout the process several documents have been prepared and then summarized into this final document.

Given the rapidly changing global environment and especially that of tourism this strategic plan must be seen as a living document. Recent history has shown that any plan must be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and driving forces. The ASEAN NTOs recognize that they will have to carefully monitor the plan’s progress and regularly updated in order to ensure that it stays relevant as a tool for guiding actions and investment.

The plan provides a balanced set of actions and activities based on a vision that is felt to provide the right level of guidance and direction to the ongoing activities of the ASEAN NTOs. The vision put forward in the strategic plan is as follows:

“By 2015, ASEAN will provide an increasing number of visitors to the region with authentic and diverse products, enhanced connectivity, a safe and secure environment, increased quality of services, while at the same time ensuring an increased quality of life and opportunities for residents through responsible and sustainable tourism development by working effectively with a wide range of stakeholders.”

The plan is organized around three different sets of strategic directions:
• The development of experiential and innovative regional products and creative marketing and investment strategies
• Increasing the quality of human resources, services and facilities in the region
• Enhancing and accelerating travel facilitation and ASEAN connectivity.

Each of these strategic directions has a series of actions and activities. There are recommendations for realigning and restructuring the way that the ASEAN tourism cooperation functions in order to achieve economies of scale and to make best use of scarce resources. It is hoped that this realignment will enable the ASEAN tourism cooperation to become ever more effective in guiding tourism in the region.

Tourism is too important an activity not to receive sufficient funding to help achieve the region’s goals and objectives. As stated earlier the specific actions and activities have been carefully chosen in light of their probability of success and obtaining the necessary resources to implement them. The NTOs clearly recognize that one of the first tasks is to continue to identify funding from various sources to ensure the success of the plan. Creative means of obtaining resources is clearly an essential goal and one which is recognized by all of the Member States.

We therefore embark upon a new phase of tourism development in the region with a strong strategic plan and equally strong commitment on the part of the NTOs to ensure its success and that tourism plays its rightful role in ensuring that the social, political, cultural and social goals of the regional economy are met.

The plan is realistic, action oriented, attuned to the global realities and designed to ensure that the ASEAN region can continue to be a successful tourism destination. The strategic plan when implemented will allow Southeast Asia to be a strong competitor within the global tourism environment.