The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has launched a 10-year strategic plan to improve tourism in the region. In the recently concluded ASEAN Tourism Forum 2016, the ASEAN member states moved a step closer to implementing a single visa for tourists visiting the region.
The plan is aimed towards providing foreign visitors easy access to all 10 member-countries in the region. The 10 member countries of ASEAN include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016 – 2025
The ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016 – 2025 was signed on the last day of the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2016. The ATSP was hosted by the Department of Tourism (DOT) at the SMX Convention Canter in Manila this year. It was signed to promote Southeast Asia as a single tourist destination. It stressed on highlighting the tourism potential present in the region.
ASEAN member-countries witnessed 102.2 million tourist arrivals in the last 3 years and the number of tourists is on the rise every year. From an economic point of view, the tourism industry was responsible for 12.3 percent of the ASEAN’s GDP in the past 3 years.
With the formal establishment of the ASEAN economic community (AEC) last year, tourism officials have been focusing on attracting more foreign tourists to the ASEAN region.
Single Visa Scheme for Foreign Tourists
The single visa scheme aims to boost tourism in Southeast Asia. As per the ATSP, all ASEAN member states will be considered as a single destination. The unified visa system will require foreign tourists to complete a single process for visa that will be valid in any of the 10 member-countries of the ASEAN region. The single visa scheme of ASEAN will be similar to the Schengen visa in Europe that is valid in the Schengen Area comprising of 22 European Union member states and four non-members.
Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said, “To implement the single visa, we have to share data (with other ASEAN countries and) we have to work (in integrating) our system. In other words, we match our data system with theirs.”
“To work towards the vision for ASEAN tourism over the next decade, it will be necessary to complete and continue existing initiatives such as the marketing of ASEAN as a single destination,” the executive summary of the forum stated.
Objectives of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016 – 2025
The 10-year plan projected by the ASEAN Tourism Forum has been divided into two terms.
The first five years of the new ATSP will focus on the following objectives:
- Intensification of promotion and marketing
- Diversification of tourism products
- Attracting tourism investments
- Raising capacity and capability of human capital
- Implementation and expansion of ASEAN tourism standards for facilities, services and destinations
- Implementation and expansion of connectivity and destination infrastructure
- Enhancement of travel facilitation
For the last five years of the new ATSP, ASEAN will focus on the following objectives:
- Upgradation of local communities and public-private sector participation in the tourism value chain
- Ensuring safety and security
- Protection and management of heritage sites
- Increasing of responsiveness to environmental protection and climate change
Ramon Jimenez Jr. said that the enhancement of the tourism statistical framework will be a critical requirement in creating the single ASEAN visa. He further said that all of ASEAN’s member countries have already expressed support for the envisioned single-visa scheme which is expected to increase the number of tourist arrivals in the ASEAN region by easing travel requirements.
He also stated that the new ATSP has the aim to secure at least 20 percent of the approximate 1.8 billion global travellers by 2030.
The ASEAN single visa scheme is expected to be introduced by the end of the first half of the ATSP 2016-2025.