Southeast Asia nations sign tourism pact

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Leaders of the members nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed a comprehensive agreement on Nov. 4 to boost inbound tourism by coordinating efforts to enhance and promote the region and to reduce barriers to travel.

The agreement covers a number of areas, including coordinating visa procedures, enhancements to a smart-card system for business and frequent travelers, phasing out travel levies and taxes, extending visa exemptions and stepping up collaboration in transportation and safety operations.

The leaders agreed to establish an integrated tourism and travel services network and to promote the entire region collectively as a single destination.

The document also pledged the leaders to take steps to "conserve and promote the natural and historic heritage of each country through environmental management to promote sustainable tourism."

The member nations include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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