The ASEAN Tourism Ministers held their Seventh Meeting (M-ATM) on 3 February 2004 in Vientiane, Lao PDR in conjunction with the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2004 (ATF 2004). H.E. Somphong Mongkhonvilay, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, Lao PDR chaired the Meeting.

ASEAN Performance and Challenges

The ASEAN 2003 tourism performance showed strong recovery figures especially in the last four months of that year. Despite the global travel situation affected by a number of crises, ASEAN tourism managed to recover with a commendable arrival figure of 37,510,043 by the end of 2003, reflecting a decrease of only 14%, compared to a downturn of almost 53% in May, when the prevalence of SARS and the war in Iraq was at its height.

Overall, in spite of the challenges to tourism, the ASEAN region has shown its resilience, as all member states remain committed to maximize efforts to further cooperate to achieve greater growth.

ASEAN Tourism Forum 2004

The Ministers were pleased that ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) continues to be a landmark annual tourism event and that ATF 2004 held in Vientiane, Lao PDR from 30 January to 7 February 2004 with the theme: “ASEAN, the New Tourism Landscape” has brought more than 260 foreign tourism companies as buyers to Vientiane to explore business opportunities in tourism with about 1000 sellers in ASEAN. They welcomed the efforts by the tourism industry in organizing 467 tourism booths and the participation of 210 media agencies in providing timely coverage of ATF 2004 to peoples of ASEAN and our friends all over the world.
Advancing the Implementation of the ASEAN Tourism Agreement

The Ministers welcomed the decision of the ASEAN Leaders to establish the ASEAN Community by 2020 to further ensure sustained peace, stability and shared prosperity in the region. They were pleased that ASEAN Leaders continue to identify tourism development as a key factor in promoting regional peace and economic stability, with a high priority for integration of ASEAN. They agreed to work towards advancing the integration of tourism through developing ASEAN Tourism Vision and a roadmap for integration with concrete actions for 2004-2010.

The Ministers reviewed the implementation status of the ASEAN Tourism Agreement signed by ASEAN Leaders in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 4 November 2002 and noted with satisfaction the progress made by ASEAN NTOs in cooperation with other ASEAN bodies. The Ministers welcomed the decision of the ASEAN Directors-General of Immigration Departments and Heads of Consular Affairs Divisions of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (DGICM) to embark on the Framework Agreement on Visa Exemption and expressed their full support for its early implementation.

The Ministers adopted the Implementation Plan for the ASEAN Tourism Agreement.

Vientiane Declaration on Enhancing ASEAN Tourism Cooperation

The Ministers issued the ‘Vientiane Declaration on Enhancing ASEAN Tourism Cooperation’, which spelt out the specific actions to implement the Ministers’ decisions. The Vientiane Declaration is attached.

Visit ASEAN Campaign Further Promoted

The Ministers were pleased with the progress made in the implementation of the Visit ASEAN Campaign (VAC) and “soft-launched” the VAC third phase to further promote intra-ASEAN travel.
The Ministers welcomed the efforts by tourism industry through the ASEAN Tourism Association (ASEANTA) in promoting the VAC, in particular the introduction of various attractive packages such as ASEAN Hip Hop Pass – a value package offered by participating airlines, hotels and travel agents for tourists travelling within the ASEAN. They expressed their appreciation to ASEAN national carriers for their commitment to screen the VAC TV Advertisement in their in-flight entertainment programme.

Tourism Services Liberalization Accelerated

The Ministers welcomed the signing by the ASEAN Economic Ministers of the Protocol to amend the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) to further advance the service negotiations. They urged tourism officials to accelerate the negotiations for conclusion of the third package of commitment by August 2004.

Strengthened Cooperation with Other Countries

The Ministers were pleased with the efforts by ASEAN with China, Japan and Korea in cooperation with relevant international organizations to limit the impact of terrorism and outbreak of SARS. They emphasized the need to further promote closer ties with China, Japan and Korea for greater tourism exchange, social interaction and closer economic cohesion in East Asia.

The Ministers welcomed the outcome of the First ASEAN NTOs-India Consultation held in Bagan, Myanmar on 31 October 2003 to enhance the cooperation in tourism that both parties can benefit significantly.
The Ministers welcomed the decision of ASEAN and EU to embark on the “Trans-regional EU-ASEAN Trade Initiative” (TREATI) in order to expand the trade and investment flows between the two regions. They were pleased to note that tourism is one of priority sectors for the TREATI and agreed to give their full support for its early implementation.

ASEAN Tourism Forum 2005 and 2006

The Ministers agreed that ATF 2005 and ATF 2006 will be held in Malaysia and Myanmar respectively. They further agreed to convene the Eighth and Ninth Meetings of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers in Malaysia and Myanmar respectively in conjunction with ATF 2005 and ATF 2006.

Managing Avian Flu

The Ministers appreciate the progress made by affected countries in controlling the spread of the disease.  It has been the ASEAN policy of putting first and foremost the safety of travellers to ASEAN. Moving forward, the ASEAN Member Countries remain committed to more stringent surveillance and effective response systems, improved research and development capabilities, and sharing of information and technology, as well as promote rapid, transparent, and accurate exchange of scientific information among member countries.

The ASEAN Tourism Ministers noted the joint statement of the Agriculture and Health Ministers from their meeting on 28 January 2004 in Bangkok on containing the spread of Avian influenza, that human-to-human transmission has not been scientifically demonstrated and travel advisories are not called for at this time./.

The Meeting was attended by:

(i) H.E. Pehin Dato Abdul Rahman Taib, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Brunei Darussalam;
(ii) H.E. Mr. Veng Sereyvuth, Senior Minister and Minister of Tourism, Cambodia;
(iii) H.E. Mr. I Gede Ardika, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Indonesia;
(iv) H.E. Mr. Somphong Mongkhonvilay, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, Lao PDR;
(v) H.E. Dato’ Paduka Abdul Kadir bin Haji Sheikh Fadzir, Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism, Malaysia;
(vi) H.E. Brigadier General Thein Zaw, Minister for Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar;
(vii) H.E. Mr. Oscar P. Palabyab, Undersecretary of Tourism, Philippines;
(viii) H.E. Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Singapore;
(ix) H.E. Mr. Sontaya Kunplome, Minister of Tourism and Sports, Thailand;
(x) H.E. Dr. Pham Tu, Vice-Chairman of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Vietnam;
(xi) H.E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN.