Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

25 Jan, 2015

ASEANTA unveils plan to reinvent itself, rebuild ties with national tourism organisations

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar — The ASEAN Tourism Association, which groups the private sector and some of the national airlines of the 10 member countries, has unveiled a series of measures to reinvent itself and re-establish a stronger partnership with the ASEAN national tourism organisations and tourism ministries.

Addressing the 41st meeting of the ASEAN NTOs here on 23 January, Ms Aileen Clemente of the Philippines said that ASEANTA is “amending its constitution and by-laws to make it more dynamic and sensible” and undertaking a number of other “structural and strategic changes” in order to help it play a “more active and suitable part” in the promotion and development of the ASEAN Economic Community.

One of her primary suggestions was for the annual ASEAN Tourism Forum and ASEAN Tourism Conference to be jointly organised in future by the ASEAN NTOs and ASEANTA as a matter of policy.


“Apart from fostering the public-private partnership, this will also ensure that both parties have a source of funding to carry out its projects,” she said.

Ms Clemente is the daughter of Alejandra C. Clemente, Chairperson of Rajah Tours Philippines, Inc. and Rajah Travel Corporation, the oldest and one of the largest tour operators in that country. A graduate of St. Mary’s in California with three years of economics study at the University of the Philippines, she is one of an emerging generation of young leaders trying to breathe some new life into ASEANTA.

She said the changes had been intensely discussed at the ASEANTA meetings in Nay Pyi Taw, and she was glad to have had the opportunity to present a report and make her case directly to the heads of ASEAN NTOs. The proposals are particularly important because the next ASEAN Tourism Forum will be held between Jan 18-25, 2016, in the Philippines and the 2016-2025 ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan will be formally announced.

The full text of her presentation follows:

Mr. Chairman, Allow me, first of all, on behalf of ASEANTA Members, to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for inviting me to this very important 41st Meeting of the ASEAN NTO’s. With me is my colleague and ASEANTA Secretary General Datuk Ilyas as well as Alex Rajakumar from the Secretariat.

We at ASEANTA have supported the promotion and development of ASEAN tourism in the past years alongside the efforts of the promotion and development of the ASEAN Economic Community. While the role that was assigned by the ASEAN NTO to us was merely on product development, ASEANTA also started to look upon itself, to a considerable degree, in reinventing its role and playing a more active and suitable part in all of this.

As we have our General Meeting in two days’ time, ASEANTA is amending its constitution and by-laws to make it more dynamic and sensible. To highlight, it will allow more types of members to be admitted such as Meetings and Events companies, Schools, among others.

ASEANTA will also be adopting new policies and plans that it intends to carry out to seize the upside potential of the ASEAN integration. This includes having a media plan to ensure that ASEANTA documents and provides information on the role that it plays and shows a credible demonstration of international cooperation and unity with the predominant priority of promoting the ASEAN.

ASEANTA wills itself to have a clearer focus on its role and thus will be pushing its position papers where it matters.

While anyone here may think it simple, but ASEANTA also already created its WHATSAPP group so that communication is consistent and real-time apart from the usual modes of communication. This drives us to move away from the “out of sight, out of mind” behaviour since the messages and follow-ups are constant and accessible literally, at the palm of your hand”. It is informal but provides a systematic dialogue among us.

I make mention of these structural and strategic changes in ASEANTA instead of merely making a brief report on the activities of ASEANTA that is aligned with ASEAN tourism because these are welcome improvements on our end that should assure the ASEAN NTOs that we are capable of having more joint projects.

In fact, I would like to highlight that the NTOs are a charter member of ASEANTA which means that not long ago, the NTOs thought that the partnership with the private sector was a very sound idea. I am merely echoing that principle and hoping to fully re-establish that relationship.

More than a participant, we want to be a partner of the NTOs. And we are put forward three requests:

1.  If it is possible to be invited to and/or receive communications from ASEAN NTOs meetings, working group outputs and similar. This way, we can align our efforts and avoid duplication and worse cancel out yours and our efforts just because we have different strategies in place.

2. For the NTOs to once again attend the ASEANTA meetings to ensure the linkage between the two parties.

3. That the event organization of the ASEAN Tourism Forum and ASEAN Tourism Conference be jointly done by ASEAN NTO and ASEANTA as a matter of policy. Apart from fostering the public-private partnership, this will also ensure that both parties have a source of funding to carry out its projects.

We believe that with these, we are not only continuously building the fabric of trust but that together, we can accelerate the process of change that needs to be undertaken to ensure that we have a strong, sustainable and resilient ASEAN Economic Community, or even at least, ASEAN Tourism Industry.

In the past we have seen glimpses of cooperation. In 2014, ASEANTA was given the honour for the first time to organize both the TRAVEX and ATC of ATF after a long time. Apart from the statistics that I will share with you, together with the Malaysian Government, we were also able to contribute to the ASEAN NTO fund of more than MR 300k or around USD 100k.

We achieved more than the 500 target of both buyers and sellers. We have more than 600 buyers from 68 countries, a recorded booth sales of 449 and 155 registered media representatives coming from Europe (32) USA/Canada (11), Australia (7), South & Central America (2), Asia (21) and ASEAN (82).

There are more than 400 registered participants for the ASEAN Tourism Conference.

Where invited, ASEANTA has attended and participated, including the ATSP in Manila and the working groups in developing ‘Themes’ or grouping of destinations into 4 main categories namely:

  • Community Based Tourism [25 products from 10 countries], (Lead – Cambodia)
  • Nature Based Tourism  [30 products from 10 countries], (Lead – Malaysia)
  • Cultural and Heritage Tourism [34 products from 10 countries], (Lead – Indonesia)
  • Cruise and River Based Tourism [34 products from 10 countries], (Lead – Singapore)

Our collaboration only begins here. Education is another aspect that we would like to pursue where we can assist in increasing the standards of qualification of those in the industry.

We are also increasing efforts on travel within the ASEAN as there are so many favorable conditions that we can capitalize on, including affordability, improved and increased connectivity, etc.

We are giving a different form to the ASEAN Pass. This is spearheaded by Air Asia who was supposed to launch their program last year. But for obvious reasons, this was postponed. But ASEANTA will strongly be supporting this.

In conclusion, I, on behalf of ASEANTA Members, am pleased to inform that ASEANTA is committed and stands ready to work in close cooperation and collaboration with the national tourism offices (NTO’s) of ASEAN.

We have somewhat already started working on a common ground, I believe it is time that we work on a higher ground.

Thank you very much.