The Department of Tourism (DOT) has welcomed recent developments to ensure Southeast Asia’s competitiveness as a single tourism destination and to bolster the recovery of tourism in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the recent 24th meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Tourism Ministers hosted by the Cambodian Tourism Ministry, through video conferencing, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat expressed her support for the initiatives under the updated Asean’s Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016-2025.
New priority programs identified at the meeting include the adoption of measures and initiatives to support the digitization of Asean tourism, the strengthening of data and information networks, and the conduct of activities to promote connectivity and facilitate travel to and within the region.
Also topping the Tourism Ministers’ meeting agenda was addressing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Collectively, Asean member states suffered a decline of about 75.8% in tourism receipts, while international arrivals declined by approximately 80.5%. Both factors contributed to significant declines in related industry sectors such as accommodations, tours, and tourist transport.
“We can only successfully recover from the pandemic if we do so in unity, guided by data and information that lead to effective planning,” Romulo-Puyat said in her remarks.
She also stressed the importance of pursuing activities centered on community-based tourism developments, thereby enhancing the sustainability and resiliency of the tourism value chain throughout the Asean.
Proposed initiatives under this direction include supporting tourism micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); contributing to programs geared toward reskilling and upskilling tourism workers; and promoting greater inclusivity to generate more jobs for local communities, women, youth, indigenous peoples, minorities, and other vulnerable groups.
“As we implement our plans and programs, it is always prudent to be reminded that we also aim to uplift the lives of our workers through tourism. We must ensure that our workers are covered during these times, especially that we have good policies and mechanisms such as the Mutual Recognition Arrangement for Tourism Professionals (MRA-TP) that help promote recovery and growth,” she added.
At the meeting, Romulo-Puyat acknowledged the support extended to the region by the various partner international organizations of the Asean. She also stressed that current emphasis on promoting domestic tourism, supporting tourism product development, and enabling local governments is in accordance with the recommendations for the tourism industry recovery.
While the Philippines has pivoted toward domestic tourism to mitigate the pandemic’s impact, she reiterated that the country remains committed to strengthening the partnership among Asean member states.