The tourism sector is one of the fastest growing industries in the ASEAN region. Based on UNWTO statistics, the tourism sector has grown on average 6.3% annually from 1995 and the same average growth rate is expected to be maintained until 2020. This means that by 2020, there will be around 136 million tourists per year. According to the ASEAN official statistics, in 2012, 45% of total tourism arrivals in ASEAN was from within the region (intraregional tourism), 10.5% of tourists came from China, 9.1% from European Union, 4.8% from Japan, 4.5% from Australia and 4.5% from Republic of Korea.
Undoubtedly, the tourism sector has a significant impact on Southeast Asia’s economic performance. Visitors are attracted by cultural diversity, heritage, wildlife and natural sites in the region. Among the top ten tourism destinations in 2013, Thailand was 10th place with 26.5 million tourists. Among the top ten international tourism receipts countries Thailand was 6th place with over $42 billion in tourism receipts. Tourism is valuable for the region not only because it generates revenue, creates jobs and increases demand for local currencies but also because it helps to attract investment in other sectors and creates the ASEAN region brand.
Realization that tourism is associated with the above benefits has lead ASEAN countries to cooperate through ASEAN National Tourism Organizations in order to coordinate their national tourism marketing strategies for achieving more sustained development in the sector. An ASEAN Tourism Marketing Strategy report was released in 2013 which outlines a coordinated marketing strategy in the sector. The main objectives of the strategy are to attract tourists which visit more than one country in the region, to ensure that tourism is used as a development tool, to promote intraregional tourism and to guide national tourism organizations’ budgetary decisions related to positioning the region.
The report highlights that the plan for 2015 onwards is to encourage development of senior tourists (tourists over legal age of retirement) and the long stay tourist (tourists that intend to stay for long periods in the hosting country) markets. In addition, the new marketing strategy focuses on experiential and creative tourism as the demand for such is growing among contemporary tourists. ASEAN tour operators are being encouraged to develop tour packages focused on multi-country travels with experiences of the local ways of life and culture. For this purpose, ASEAN started promoting the following travel themes: “The taste of Southeast Asia”, “World Class Cities”, “ASEAN, a Tropical Paradise”, “Experience Diverse Traditions”, “Diverse Contemporary Creativity” and “Sport and Relaxation”.
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