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ASEAN tourism thrives post-pandemic

ASEAN tourism destinations have been on a roll ever since restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus were lifted. One can attribute the surge of tourism to people’s urge to travel after being locked down for two years (some call it “revenge travel”), or maybe the good times in travel and tourism are simply coming back.ย 

Lao PDR’s Patuxai or Gate of Triumph, a war monument in Vientiane, one of the sites highlighted during the ATF

During the media briefings in the ASEAN Tourism Forum last January 23 to 24 in Vientiane, Laos PDR, member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations reported a significant increase in tourism arrivals in 2023 compared to figures a year ago, with Thailand and Vietnam leading in the numbers game.

Thailand welcomed 28 million tourists last year against 11.15 million in 2022. Vietnam received 12.6 million tourists in 2023, an astonishing four-fold increase from 2022. This was followed by Malaysia (14.5 million), Singapore (12.4 million), Cambodia (4.4 million), The Philippines (5.5 million), Laos PDR (3 million), and Myanmar (1.2 million). Unfortunately, Brunei Darussalam was not able to report its figures during the media briefings but according to CEIC Data, the tiny nation received 694,390 tourists in 2023. CEIC Data is composed of economists and analysts who provide expansive and accurate data insights for developed and developing countries.

Lao PDR Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Suanesavanh Vignaket

“ASEAN saw a 153.09% year-on-year increase in international arrivals,” said Lao PDR Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Suanesavanh Vignaket during the 27th meeting of ASEAN tourism ministers’ press conference.

The increase is said to be accredited to returning demand for tourism where Asia Pacific has become among the most popular destinations. Airlines have also increased routes and injected more supply. ASEAN states have also developed programs to attract foreign arrivals, such as the digital nomad visa program and ease of visa application. More importantly, China reopened itself to travel, allowing the issuance of visas for mainland residents to travel overseas.ย 

Vignaket also satisfactorily cited the successful launch of the three marketing campaigns of the ASEAN in 2023, namely Southeast Asia Travel Collective, imaginASEAN, and intraASEAN Tourism Recovery Campaign.ย 

ASEAN ministers and their representatives during the opening ceremony

The Southeast Asia Travel Collective, in partnership with Victorinox, aimed to inspire travel to the region, and featured a curated introduction of ASEAN destinations on the luggage brand’s website. Launched on the occasion of ASEAN Day, ImaginASEAN, with the support of Agoda and AirAsia, held an online competition encouraging potential travelers to imagine themselves experiencing the region’s diverse attractions. The subsequent Intra-ASEAN Tourism Recovery Campaign, launched during World Tourism Day, encouraged ASEAN residents and travelers in Southeast Asia to explore the distinctive characteristics of the region. It was supported by Global Affairs Canada through the Canadian Trade and Investment Facility for Development.

“In order to develop tourism, our shared objectives need to further propel the tourism of ASEAN member states, aligned with the vision of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2025, where ASEAN becomes a quality tourism destination that offers unique and diverse experiences, committed to responsible, sustainable, inclusive and balanced tourism development,” the Minister shared.ย 

Press conference of the ASEAN tourism ministers

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has reported that international tourism is expected to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, with initial estimates pointing to 2% growth above 2019 levels. This is based on UNWTO’s forecast of the recovery pace in Asia.


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