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Restoring confidence in travel

Air Andaman suspends routes

Restoring confidence in travel

ASEAN NTO’s addressed

Reinhard Hohler

More than just another travel mart, the annual ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) provides a platform for the discussion of ongoing issues facing the tourism industry with the ten national tourism organizations (NTO’s) from ASEAN.

Cambodian senior minister H.E. Veng Sereyvuth from the Ministry of Tourism.

South East Asia represents one of the fastest growing tourism markets in the world and it looks obvious that this trend will continue into the next coming years. The ASEAN member nations offer unlimited variety in terms of culture, history, landscape, flora and fauna, making the region Asia’s perfect 10 paradise.

This year’s ATF2004 was held in Vientiane, Laos, with NTO’s from Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar. Lim Neo Chian, deputy chairman and chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said that despite the economic challenges and uncertainties, which confronted the tourism industry after SARS, Singapore aims to restore performance to 2002 levels and targets to achieve 7.6 million visitor arrivals. STB will focus on healthcare, education and 24 hours public entertainment. Also, it will launch its campaign ‘Uniquely Singapore’ at ITB in Berlin on March 12-16, this year.

Paul Stoll, general manager of the Furama Beach Hotel in Danang, introduced the World Heritage Road project.

Cambodian senior minister H.E. Veng Sereyvuth from the Ministry of Tourism emphasized a vibrant and diverse market and is banking on a sophisticated future. With a marketing budget of 1 million USD and a target of 1 million visitors in 2004, there will be the development of the infrastructure between Poipet and Siem Reap, the opening of Sihanoukville Airport in April 2004, marine development to attract international cruise ships to come and the making of the northeastern province Rattankiri as a center of eco-tourism.

Indonesia, represented by Udin Saifuddin, deputy minister for marketing, and Hamdan Rivai, director of overseas promotion, even offers small islands to investors to halt the slump of visitor arrivals. With the new branding as Indonesia, Ultimate in Diversity, the target is 5 million visitors, injecting 5 billion USD in foreign currency needed for development efforts. There are also new entry regulations concerning free visa and visa-on-arrival.

Myanmar, a member of ASEAN since 1997, is even introducing an e-visa for visa-on-arrival. With no world heritage sites yet declared, Myanmar suffers from economic sanctions since 1996, but U Khin Maung Latt, director general of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism proudly announced the permanent opening of 6 checkpoints with China, 5 with Thailand and 1 each with Laos and India. Very important is the cease-fire agreement with the Karen National Union (KNU) to develop the ambitious East-West Corridor Project.

Malaysia under the chairmanship of Datuk Abdullah Jonid, director general of Tourism Malaysia, announced 10.5 million visitors in the crisis year of 2003 and registered a decline of more than 20 percent compared to 2002. To stimulate the growth of tourism, Malaysia will officially organize a special Visit Malaysia campaign during the years of 2005 and 2006 with a focus on the MICE market. In 2005, both ATF and PATA Travel Mart will be in Malaysia.

Lao PDR gave a comprehensive overview of its tourism development plan and advertised a green industry and Laos as the best place in ASEAN to relax by ambassador Vang Rattanavong, first vice-chairman of Lao NTO, Prime Minister’s office. Since the open door policy in 1986, the development of the tourist sector is steadily improving and can easily reach 1 million visitors in 2004. Laos is an ideal land bridge between Thailand and Vietnam and between China, Thailand and Cambodia.

Attractions include Khon Phapheng and Liphi waterfalls in the southern part of the country which are the largest waterfalls in Southeast Asia. Other attractions are the stone forest and the Konglor underground river in Khammouan Province.

As H.E. Richard Gordon recently resigned as minister of tourism, the Philippines were represented by Oscar P. Palabyab, undersecretary for tourism services and regional offices, Department of Tourism. With the Wealth of Wonders (WOW) battle cry, 2003 has been a favorable year for the country’s tourism industry despite SARS and the Iraq War, because the World tourism Organization, now as an arm of the UN, had luckily declared 2003 as Visit Philippines year. This will continue to June 2004 with the capital Manila, the site of yearlong activities featuring the best of the best attractions from the country’s 16 regions.

Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed, director of Brunei Tourism, and his tourism expert officer Jean Christophe Robles referred to their budget of 14 million USD for tourism, and Brunei is welcoming journalists to survey the oil-rich Muslim enclave situated between Malaysian Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island. It is interesting to note that Brunei is curtailing the visitor arrivals to only 100,000 to counterbalance the negative image of mass tourism and to protect their fragile environment.

What a difference to Thailand which recently announced a target 30 million visitors by the year 2010. Suraphon Svetasreni, Deputy Governor for Public Relations of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recorded a total of 9.95 million visitors of the kingdom in 2003 and declared that Thailand will become the tourism capital of Asia by 2006.

Thailand’s popularity amongst young and independent travelers has taken a giant step forward by being voted their most favorite travel destination according to a Lonely Planet guidebook poll.

Last not least, Vietnam concluded that like in Thailand the emerging bird flu problem will be contained and that some cancellations are only temporary. Vietnam has chosen the year 2004 to be Visit Dien Bien Phu Year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the battle victory over colonial France. H.E. Dr. Pham Tu, minister of tourism and head of his delegation, introduced German Paul Stoll, general manager of the Furama Beach Hotel in Danang, to highlight the World Heritage Road as a 1900 kilometers theme road, running from Vinh in the north of Vietnam to Dalat in the southern highlands. Road tourism will create a new dimension of traveling in the future and will certainly attract more of the two million foreign and 13 million domestic travelers in Vietnam.

For further information, please contact GMS media travel consultant Reinhard Hohler by email [email protected]

Air Andaman suspends routes

Thailand’s domestic carrier Air Andaman has suspended operations on all of its eight routes pending a complete restructuring and the development of a new business plan.

The fledgling carrier, which only started at the end of 2000, is the first victim of the shakeout that is underway in Thailand following the deregulation of domestic fares and the arrival of a rash of low-cost carriers.

Air Andaman has been providing feeder services to Phrae, Nan, Buriram, Surin, Loei, Mae Sot, Chumphon and Narithawat, using a small fleet of commuter aircraft, some leased and some purchased.

Air Andaman president Atichart Athakravisunthorn said the Fokker aircraft have been returned to the leasing company and the Jetstreams have been put up for sale.

Atichart said the competition on domestic routes was becoming so fierce that the company could no longer make a profit. He forecast “massive losses” for several players during the next two years, and he said his company could only survive by getting out of the domestic market altogether.

“But we will not be closing shop. We expect to make an announcement during the next few weeks. It will probably involve larger aircraft for use on international routes, but it’s too early to give details because we’re still developing the plan,” Atichart added. (TTG Asia)