The opening of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tourism Forum was graced by Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday, January 20.
|President Benigno Aquino|
In his speech during the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Tourism Forum (AFT) 2016 in Manila, the President said that the ASEAN region should maximize its tourism potential to further attract the international market. He said, “would it not be a more attractive value pack proposition to present tours that cover more, if not all ASEAN countries, in one sweep?”.
“After all, tourists who travel more than a day in order to experience Southeast Asia will likely not limit themselves to the Philippines alone. Visits to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and perhaps each and every member state would probably factor into their itinerary,” he added.
The President also stressed that the ASEAN region has a huge potential in terms of tourism. He reported that tourist arrivals in the region reached 105.1 million in 2014, up by 42.4% from 73.8 million in 2010. Aquino also said that of those 105.1 million visitors, 49.22 million came from within ASEAN itself.
|President Aquino with ASEAN Tourism Ministers|
“The strong interest that our people had in visiting each other’s countries highlights a potential to accelerate the growth of intra-ASEAN tourism, which redounds to all our benefits; not only does it contribute to our respective growth agendas, it also fosters greater understanding and strengthens the ties that bind our people,” Aquino said.
Aquino also mentioned that the entire ASEAN region should capitalize on the positive effect brought by the ASEAN integration. He emphasized that the ASEAN integration made the 10-member nations a more attractive destination for visitors around the world.
President Aquino also made an appeal for regional cooperation in keeping a balance between tourism growth and the protection of rich natural resources.
“For a region that occupies only three percent of the Earth’s surface, we play hosts to practically the entire spectrum of natural attractions: from the most diverse coral reefs in the world, to the beautiful beaches, and the rich terrestrial biodiversity,” Aquino said.
“This requires us to maintain a delicate balance between harnessing these attractions for the economic benefit of our people while ensuring that succeeding generations are also allowed to do so,” he added.
“This also means that if I do get the chance to travel to any of the countries in ASEAN, I will be able to spend more time walking the streets and imbibing all of the cultural activities and visit even cultural sites at leisure, as opposed to the very hectic and fixed schedules I had as president,” he added.
|Performers during the ATF 2016 Opening Ceremony|