ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) tourism ministers defined strategic plans for the next few years at their annual ASEAN Tourism Forum held in Singapore, and agreed to create a Joint Declaration on Cruise Tourism.
The declaration will display principles to urge on port and destination development in the region and further encourage industry stakeholders to collaborate and grow cruise tourism in Southeast Asia.
At a news briefing on Friday (January 20), the ministers reiterated their commitment to develop Southeast Asia into a vibrant cruising destination.
About 4.5 million cruise passengers are expected to sail through Southeast Asia annually by 2035 - ten times the current levels of about 450,000.
Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran, who also chaired the meeting, said the cruise industry is a "network product" that “plays to the strength of ASEAN”. He added that work needs to be done across the board, highlighting the importance of developing infrastructure to accommodate cruise ships of varying sizes and on-shore programmes to complement the arrival of ships.
ASEAN Tourism Cooperation
The ministers issued a joint media statement following the meeting on Friday, in which they said they were “pleased with progress achieved in ASEAN tourism cooperation in 2016”.
ASEAN is estimated to have received 116 million international visitors in 2016, up by 6.5% from 2015, with arrivals dominated by intra-ASEAN travel.
Earlier during the week, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially launched the Visit ASEAN@50 Golden Celebration campaign, as the grouping celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The regional tourism campaign aims to raise international arrivals to 121 million in 2017, and tourist spending to US$83 billion.
In the joint media statement, the ministers added that they are confident that tourism will continue to contribute towards broader regional integration targets under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) initiative.
Conceived as a single market and production base, the AEC is part of broader efforts to integrate ASEAN economies, and officially kicked off at end-2015.
Another focus of regional integration efforts has been to facilitate travel around the region, “both within ASEAN and from outside ASEAN to within”, Mr Iswaran said.
“This is assisted by developments in technology and data, and in the biometrics that are happening,” he said.
“So I think we need to allow for that to evolve, so that we can find the right balance between on the one hand, facilitating freer travel and on the other hand addressing some of the legitimate security concerns.”
Next year's ASEAN Tourism Forum will be held in Thailand with the theme ASEAN - Sustainable Connectivity, Boundless Prosperity.