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Promoting cruise tourism high on ASEAN's agenda as it celebrates 50 years

PHOTO: Andrew Tan
Singapore is lead coordinator for the ASEAN Cruise Development Initiative
Promoting cruise tourism was on the agenda at the 36th Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), hosted by Singapore this year.

The theme for the forum is 'Shaping Our Tourism Journey Together'.

Speaking at the opening gala Wednesday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong  said the spirit of regional cooperation is all the more important in these uncertain times.

In many countries mood is to go it alone but ASEAN is an important life raft to build up cooperation, he said.

ATF 2017 also coincides with the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN.

PM Lee said tourism is an area where ASEAN can create win-win benefits.

'As people become affluent they want to travel and explore.

'Because ASEAN countries have fast growing middle classes, and as our people become better off (and) more affluent, more of them want to travel to see the world. At the same time, ASEAN itself offers an enormous richness of attractions.That is why tourists from around the world want to visit Southeast Asia.'

ASEAN  hopes to increase its number of international arrivals by 10%  to 121m. To achieve this goal, PM Lee outlined necessary efforts such as reducing red tape, strengthen air links, and also building up cruise tourism.  

He said ASEAN is well-positioned to promote cruise tourism.

'We have archipelagos to rival the Aegean, Caribbean, or South Pacific. Year-round tropical weather, calm waters and diverse and attractive destinations within short sailing distances.'

He stressed that developing cruise tourism is a multi-lateral effort. 'We need to develop port infrastructure to receive bigger and newer ships and work with cruise providers to create attractive itineraries with multiple stops for tourists.'

He said Singapore is happy to be the lead coordinator for the ASEAN Cruise Development Initiative.

PM Lee reiterated, 'we need to work together closely to make these happen, and harness opportunities under the "Cruise Southeast Asia" brand.'

In an earlier Singapore media briefing at the ATF, Oliver Chong, executive director of communications and  marketing capability, Singapore Tourism Board (STB), talked about recent efforts such as a tourism MOU with Indonesia which had a cruise component.

He said Singapore’s second cruise centre has been a major boost for cruise development  with more ships calling. 

Working with fellow ASEAN members is important in opening up areas that will help industry, from port development and capability to the training of travel agents, he remarked. 

'Cruise is a nascent industry here and so STB is also working closely with cruise lines,' he added.

During the ATF, tourism ministers will be engaging in dialogues and exploring cruise development in region.

At Thailand’s media briefing, Thai Tourism Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said Thailand had received 32.6m visitors in 2016 which was an increase of 9% year-on-year. Bangkok, Phuket and Chon Buri were its top three destinations.

Thailand is aiming for some US$50bn in tourism receipts in 2017, which would constitute a 10% y-o-y increase.

When asked about cruise infrastructure development he said Thailand’s cruise sector stands to gain from mega-investment projects under the country’s East Economic Corridor plan. 

The next ATF will be held in Thailand in 2018.