The 32nd annual ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Vientiane was held from 21st – 24th January 21-24, and it was standing room only.
ATF is a cooperative regional effort to promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. This annual event involves all the tourism industry sectors of the 10 member nations of ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The natural beauty of these ten countries, with their diverse languages, cultures, customs and traditions, coupled with the warmth of the people, make any of these ASEAN countries a desirable tourist destination, particularly for the discerning traveler looking for something out of the ordinary.
Each year, the hosting of ATF is rotated among the member countries. ATF 2013 marks the 32nd anniversary of this event since its inauguration in Malaysia in 1981. This is Laos’ second time hosting and the capital city of Vientiane proudly welcomed some 2,000 tourism delegates including international buyers, media and other tourism professionals.
The three day travel event, held at the Laos’ new convention center, Lao ITECC, included presentations by new theme parks, hotels, nightclubs and spa openings, upcoming special events and information on projected visitor numbers for 2013.
This year’s timely theme was theme was : “Road Map for ASEAN: Fostering Sustainable Growth, Promoting Eco Tourism”. Numerous speakers addressed the latest recycling, energy efficiency and water conservation projects in ASEAN tourism.
In the main exhibition hall was the popular ATF TRAVEX , an important 3-day travel trade show featuring 490 booths from the 10 ASEAN countries, where sellers and buyers from around the world, explore business opportunities in the tourism sector.
Speaking at opening ceremony of the ATF, Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong said:
“Thanks to excellent cooperation, we have seen the number of international tourist arrivals in ASEAN increase in the year 2011 to 81.2 million, which contributed to the socio-economic development of member countries-creating jobs, alleviating poverty and helping to close the gap in economic development between new and long-standing ASEAN member countries.”
But it certainly wasn’t all work and no play. Delegates dedicated themselves to networking at numerous hosted events such as the ‘Malaysia Night’ dinner, the late night party put on by the Philippines, the ‘Laos’ cultural show & dinner and Pattaya’s late night.
Officials were invited to explore the relaxed city of Vientiane, perched on the banks of the Mekong River, with tours that including a visit to the captivating Buddha Park and a few of the awe-inspiring temples scattered throughout the city.
The host hotel for delegates was the new $50 million, Five-star, Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel. Although they are still adding finishing touches to the building, the staff graciously held a mini-opening to provide international visitors with luxurious accommodation and a taste of how the new space will look once it opens to the public.
At the Closing Ceremony the ATF 2014 flag was handed over to next year’s host, Malaysia. Although Malaysia was where ATF held its first forum in 1981 (and five times since) it’s the first time that the event will be held in the state of Sarawak, “home to the world’s oldest tropical rainforest” which should provide a most exciting venue.