Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism and Sports, Chumpol Silapa-Archa, signed the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Tourism Professionals in Bangkok on November 9. The occasion was witnessed by ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan and Ambassadors of ASEAN member countries.

Surin Pitsuwan applauded the signing of the MRA by Thailand , saying that it marks an important milestone for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to fully enact the agreement, a key ASEAN tourism initiative, which is designed to support the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community 2015.

He said that the appeal of ASEAN tourism needs to be accompanied by excellent quality of services, including high-skilled tourism workers to ensure sustainable growth and greater contribution to the ASEAN economy. One of the ways to achieve this goal is through mutual recognition of qualifications of tourism professionals across the ten member states.

The purpose of the MRA is to facilitate movement of tourism professionals within ASEAN, which will improve the quality of services delivered by tourism professionals.

The travel and tourism sector plays an important part in the ASEAN economy - accounting for 4.6 percent of ASEAN’s GDP (10.9 percent if all indirect contributions are taken into account). It directly employs 9.3 million people and indirectly supports 25 million jobs.

The growth of international tourism in ASEAN has been remarkable - the number of visitors to ASEAN has quadrupled from 20 million in 1991 to more than 81 million in 2011.-VNA