ASEAN tourism ministers have gathered in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar for their 18th meeting and the 2015 ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) with a view of boosting cooperation in the field.

The events were in conjunction with the 18th meeting of ASEAN plus three tourism ministers (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea).

The ministers welcomed the large influx of tourists in 2014 where preliminary figure showed that 97.2 million of international tourists visited ASEAN member states, posting a growth of 3 percent from 2013.

They commended the progress made in implementing the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2011-2015 and agreed that for the new ATSP 2016-2025, ASEAN should strive to become a quality tourism destination offering a unique and diverse ASEAN experience while committed to responsible, sustainable, inclusive and balance tourism development.

They endorsed the final text of the Agreement on the Establishment of the Regional Secretariat for the Implementation of the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Tourism Professionals in Jakarta, Indonesia to facilitate the implementation of the MRA on Tourism Professionals. Amongst others, this will include supporting the certification of 6,000 ASEAN tourism professionals based on the ASEAN Common Competency Standard for Tourism Professionals (ACCSTP). The Ministers looked forward to the signing of the Agreement during the 26th ASEAN Summit in April 2015 in Malaysia.

The ministers agreed that it is important for ASEAN to enhance its competitiveness as a single tourist destination through the development and adoption of tourism standards.

The Ministers welcomed and supported Malaysia’s initiative to develop an ASEAN focused TV travel channel – “GOASEAN”, to promote ASEAN as a single tourism destination featuring key areas such as nature-based tourism, culture and heritage tourism, family fun and business tourism.

At the 18th meeting of ASEAN plus three tourism ministers, the participants applauded the roles of the ASEAN-China Centre, ASEAN-Japan Centre and ASEAN-RoK Centre in promoting tourism and cultural exchanges between ASEAN and the Plus Three countries during the year 2014.

As scheduled, the 2016 ASEAN Tourism Forum will take place in Manila, the Philippines, from January 18-25, 2016 with the theme of “ASEAN: One Community for Sustainability”.

Ministers also noted that Singapore agreed to host ATF in 2017.-VNA