The Philippines is closely working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in promoting the region as a “single destination” once the situation stabilizes and the new tourism normal begins, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Tuesday.
“In the area of regional cooperation, recovery remains our short-to-medium term objective with ASEAN Tourism Cooperation being the key platform for us to engage and connect in promoting Southeast Asia as a single destination, ready for the demands and trends of the New Normal in Tourism,” she said at a tourism forum celebrating the 54th ASEAN Founding Anniversary.
Like other regions across the world, ASEAN’s tourism was hit hard by the pandemic and has witnessed a sharp decline in both international tourist arrivals and receipts when the outbreak began in 2020.
For Satvinder Singh, deputy secretary-general for the ASEAN Economic Community, this crisis has profoundly changed the landscape of the tourism industry– “a change that is here to stay”.
He said one of the long-term strategies towards recovery is collectively building Southeast Asia as a single tourism destination.
“It does not just reflect the similarities that we all know in terms of geography, traits, and being together in one part of the world or the similarities in customs and traditions, but more importantly it would bring us together towards the fact that we all are working towards a common cause for success,” he said.
Singh said Southeast Asian nations must work in a coordinated manner to safely reopen the industry. Starting from this year to 2025, ASEAN tourism leaders must maximize digital technology to reinvent tourism services and bring new experiences that bank on safety amid the pandemic.
He also underscored the need to develop “common regional health protocols” to promote safe destinations as well as to foster sustainability in line with Asean’s shifts towards a “resilient, competitive, resource-efficient, and inclusive” carbon-neutral tourism sector.
Among others, he said, member states must also ensure that the tourism labor force remains competitive and resilient to future crises by strengthening training and financing support programs for them.
Romulo-Puyat said the Philippines is currently exerting its best to respond to the sector’s needs and to allow for the safe reopening of tourist destinations.
While the spike in cases has forced temporary closure of destinations to travelers, she said the Department of Tourism will continue to steer the sector towards recovery through its Tourism Response and Recovery Plan (TRRP) that is aligned with the updated ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 and the Asea Post-Pandemic Tourism Recovery Plan.
“Major milestones of the Department include making our tourism workforce a top priority for the Covid-19 vaccination program of the government, and the recognition of the Philippines as part of the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Safe Travels Stamp campaign,” she said.
Aside from the Philippines, ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.