Asean Ministers Sign Tourism Pact

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CEBU, the Philippines -- In the wake of Asia's economic crisis, tourism ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) signed an agreement on cooperation in tourism and a plan of action to bind member countries into a cohesive tourism alliance.

The signing was part of the first official meeting of the Asean tourism ministers held during the 1998 Asean Tourism Forum here from Jan. 8 to 15.

Priorities of the action plan include:

  • Marketing the Asean region as a single tourism destination.
  • Encouraging tourism investment, including a liberalization of trade in tourism.
  • Tourism manpower development, including a networking of training centers and the formation of a satellite accounting system.
  • The promotion of eco-tourism and the facilitation of intra-Asean travel and cruise tourism.

    The ministers also signed a memorandum of understanding to pool tourism-related efforts with the World Travel & Tourism Council and agreed to establish an Asean communication team for tourism. The responsibility for this unit will rotate on an annual basis between the various Asean national tourism offices.

    The hot topic at this year's forum was whether member countries should quote the price of tourism products in dollars, as is traditionally done in the Philippines and Indonesia, or use local currencies.

    Although using the dollar as the base currency would encourage stability during times of economic turmoil, some members believe it would make the region more expensive and therefore less competitive.

    The forum attracted a record number of attendees: 1,700 participants, including 468 buyers, 849 sellers, 66 representatives of national tourist offices and 260 media, according to Daniel Corpuz, executive director of the Philippines Convention and Visitors Corp.

    Of the total, 14% of the participants came from the Americas, Corpuz added, with 43% coming from the Asia-Pacific region, 34% from Europe, 7% from the Middle East and 1% from Africa. Forty-four representatives of travel companies from the U.S. and 20 from Canada were listed as attending the forum as buyers.

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