Malaysia pushes for single ASEAN visa


(eTN) – Despite hindrances, Malaysia is pushing leaders from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) delegation at the ongoing fifth ASEAN Tourism Conference (ATC) to adopt a single visa policy within the 10-nations bloc.

At the ATC, which is being hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Bangkok, Malaysia has expressed its interest in seeing the region maintain the 11 percent growth rate in international tourist arrivals to the region.

Stressing that Malaysia has been pushing the proposal since 2002, Malaysian Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan said, “We are disappointed with the lack of progress and efforts from other member countries to undertake joint promotions of the region.”

He added: “There are certain attractions that we have but others don’t, and vice versa. When we go for overseas promotions, we don’t only promote Malaysia but also other countries in the region.

“A single visa will allow long-haul travelers to move around the region without much hassle.”

The visa exemption treaty allows citizens of ASEAN member countries to enter and remain in member countries for a maximum of 30 days.

Usually coming for 2-3 weeks when they travel to this part of the world, Adnan added, they want to experience more than one country during their travels. “We can benefit more by promoting the region as a whole.”

According to Adnan, ASEAN is facing an additional hurdle to its tourism promotion drive primarily due to Myanmar’s internal politics, which is yet to enforce visa-free travel to citizens from other ASEAN member states, despite signing a visa exemption treaty last year. “The US-imposed sanctions on Myanmar also complicates matters for long-haul travelers from the US and European countries.”

In addition, travelers face travel restrictions in Indonesia due to security reasons.

Meanwhile, as about 1,000 delegates travel to Bangkok for this year’s edition of the ASEAN Travel Forum, organizer Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has said preparations to host the annual summit of tourism industry in the private and public sectors within ASEAN is “on track.”

The ATF2008, which includes the TRAVEX trade show that began January 21 and will end on January 28 at Impact Challenger 2, Muang Thong Thani has attracted interest from over 1,000 buyers and sellers from within ASEAN and around the world, according to TAT.

“The ASEAN tourism industry continues to evolve, and we can all take pride in the ongoing contributions made by the industry, bringing the 10 member nations together, thereby stimulating economic growth, environmental conservation and the sharing of multi-faceted cultural heritage,” said Dr Suvit Yodmani, Thai minister of tourism and sports, in his message to delegates. “The tourism industry is concerned not only with material gains, but also the betterment of society as a whole.”

With the theme “Synergy of ASEAN Towards Dynamic Unity In Diversity,” TAT, along with together with Thai Airways and the private sector, has included tours to various ASEAN destinations in its pre- and post-tour programs.

“We look forward to welcoming our friends and supporters from throughout the ASEAN region and beyond, at the ATF2008,” said TAT Governor Phornsiri Manoharn.

ASEAN received a total of almost 60 million international tourists in 2007, showing a healthy 11 percent growth. With a combined total population of almost 567 million, intra-ASEAN travel accounts for 49 percent of total visitor arrivals.