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Southeast Asia tourism is a phenomenon and UNWTO secretary general says why

ASEAN
ASEAN
Written by Nell Alcantara

NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar (eTN) – In his congratulatory remarks to Myanmar’s President Thein Sein last Monday night (Jauary 27, 2015) at the opening ceremony of this year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum, being

NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar (eTN) – In his congratulatory remarks to Myanmar’s President Thein Sein last Monday night (Jauary 27, 2015) at the opening ceremony of this year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum, being held in the capital city, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) secretary general Taleb Rifai touted travel and tourism in the ASEAN region as a “phenomenon.”

Mr. Rifai told ASEAN Tourism Forum 2015 delegates: “The message today is to see travel and tourism from a different perspective. Not just a good business opportunity or economic driver, but as a powerful development tool. The mission of ASEAN with the role of tourism is one that is indeed promoting development and regional cooperation. It has been the success story of travel and tourism that has us all stop and think about the importance of this development.”

That is not to say it is all fine and dandy, as Mr. Rifai also acknowledged the “many global challenges facing us.” He said: “ The political sanctions, economic sanctions, medical, environmental challenges that we are all facing. In Southeast Asia, the UNWTO is proud to see that ASEAN are starting to put the agenda of tourism in many areas. ASEAN is a very unique organization, a unique phenomenon, and I would like to congratulate all of you [ASEAN member states] for keeping it together.”

By doing so, according to the UNWTO secretary general, ASEAN member states gave “the best response to a world that is quickly globalizing” as “coming together is the only way to make a difference” and “one country can’t do it alone.”

However, the most important feature of the cooperation among the ASEAN countries is the overall message. “ASEAN coming together to say a very simple statement: What’s good for my neighbor is good for me. It is a very ancient logic that we need to remind ourselves of…Taking the best of each [member state] and making the world better for all the 10 countries of ASEAN.” And by this, Mr. Rifai meant “developments [in the area of] connectivity, marketing, visa facilitation.”

According to Mr. Rifai, the results of ASEAN tourism have been very impressive. “It’s bringing us all together. For good or bad, this world is becoming one world and we need to face it together. In Southeast Asia, tourism progress has rising numbers” which along comes with “rise in responsibility.” This includes, according to Mr. Rifai, “protecting culture and heritage, natural resources…”

In addition to Myanmar President Thein Sein, dignitaries that attended the opening ceremony of this year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum included David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, and Htay Aung, Myanmar’s hotels and tourism minister.

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Nell Alcantara

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