This year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum – ATF in Cambodia proves a great success

This year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum – ATF in Cambodia proves a great success

This year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum – ATF in Cambodia proves a great success
February 07
00:00 2011

By Zuzana Adamson

 The travel industry trade fair for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries – the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2011 TRAVEX – took place between January 19 and 21.

Each year, this important event is connected with many negotiations and discussions at ministerial level, and presents the various tourist and MICE offers from the ASEAN member states, including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The meeting also provides a forum for business cooperation, exchange of information and social networking, including ministerial meetings.

Established in Malaysia in 1981, the ATF has a longstanding tradition. This year’s 30th anniversary edition took place at the Diamond Island Convention & Exhibition Center in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

ATF is generously organized by TTG Asia Media, together with representatives of individual countries. It takes place on an annual basis, with the location rotating based on alphabetical order – following last year’s Brunei Darussalam (B), it was Cambodia’s (C) turn this year, with Indonesia scheduled for next year. Interested parties from the ranks of invited buyers and expert guests had a chance to learn about very detailed offers from particular destinations. In total, there were 518 stalls from 434 exhibiting companies, covering an area of 8,430 square metres.

The total number of international buyers reached 442, with an additional 148 media representatives from 32 countries. The mood of the trade fair was beguiling, productive and festive, thanks to the many accompanying events, and the excellent, flawless organization, facilitating communication, forging contacts and cooperation. Nevertheless, some small details could have been improved: certain events conflicted with other equally interesting ones, preventing attendance at both.

Cambodia chose the catchphrase Kingdom of Wonders for its presentation. Their number of international visitors amounted to just over 2 million in 2010. The number one source for incoming tourism is Vietnam followed by Korea, China, Japan and the US.

The country is undertaking the substantial development of its tourist infrastructure. The sublime, extensive UNESCO sight – the complex of temples of Angkor Wat located next to the city of Siem Reap, the former seat of Khmer kings – elicits the biggest interest from visitors. The city offers a number of top quality 4- and 5-star hotels with a surprisingly high level of services and breathtaking interiors. Cambodia is also focused on the development of ecotourism and beach resorts. It is now easier than ever for international visitors to go there: Air Berlin has introduced a direct flight from Berlin, and there will be also a direct flight between Paris and Phnom Penh in 2011.

This year ASEAN Tourism Forum welcomed 1.600 delegates including ministers from 10 member countries od ASEAN. Their activities were focused on boosting cooperation among ASEAN member states and making productive connections with the outside world. For example, a meeting of travel industry ministers with Russia, India and a press conference of ministers and other meetings and negotiations were held. Apart from an extensive trade fair, sellers’ and buyers’ meetings and press conferences, an eventful accompanying programme was prepared for the delegates with two social networking functions each day including lunches, gala dinners and parties.

The lunches were organized by the Cambodia Angkor Air, Bangkok Airways and MOT, while the programmed gala dinners were hosted by the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Travel Industry and Tourism Malaysia. The night parties were hosted by the Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissotel hotels; Pandaw River Cruises; and TTG Asia. The Pattaya Chonburi night was co-organized by the Chonburi Provincial Administrative Organization, Sofitel and TTG Asia. The closing ceremony was held at the Naga World hotel, a new state-of-the-art hotel equipped with a large casino.

The welcome reception consisted of an outdoot event with an experimental theatre performance about the history of Cambodia, followed by fireworks. Among other accompanying events were the gala dinner and the rpogramme hosted by Malaysia. An orchestra lead by an effervescent woman conductor and truly fabulous food specialities were also included. All the delegats were very happy to be a part of this great event and they get a lot of positive energy to boast their business. The city sightseeing trips offered by the orgqnizers enqbled views of the main attractions. Subsequently, a variety of post-tours were offered. Angkor Wat was the most sought after option.

What proved to be the insider’s hot topic? There was an enormous interest in the position of hosted buyers, which resulted in half of the applicants being turned away. Some representatives from the most important travel agencies and tour operators active on the global market were not featured at the trade fair at all. Interestingly, these were exactly the companies that have been responsible for bringing the largest amount of tourists to ASEAN. Who else could be invited if not them?

Nevertheless, the strategy of the organizers is to concentrate on new players on the market – new travel and incentive agencies that are just starting to promote the ASEAN countries. There were 442 buyers from 54 countries – a diverse selection including Pakistan, South Africa, CEE countries including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, etc. European buyers accounted for 37 percent, while 54.8 percent were from the Asia-Pacific region. Most of the buyers arrived from Thailand (9 percent) followed by Singapore, India, Germany, Malaysia and the UK.

It was noted qt the press conferences of the individual ASEAN countries that cooperation amongst the various countries has been strenghtened and that border crossings should be simplified. Vietnam’s press conference showed that the country wants to focus on raising the number of visitors from Central and Eastern Europe. Several noteworthy festivals are scheduled to take place in Vietnam in 2011. Myanmar is one of the least explored and renowned destinations. The country has a marketing commitee responsible for its promotion. Similarly, the Laos PDR has also reported a rising interest from tourists and MICE organizers. We feature some of the destinations in more detail in our magazine MICE CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE – so don’t miss our next issue!

And what about ATF’s 2012 edition? This time it will be Indonesia’s turn, and the location will be the city of Manado on the North Sulawesi Island – a great destination to discover! The event will be held in January 9 – 12.

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