Cambodia Hosts ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022
Cambodia is hosting the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) from January 16 to 22, 2022 at Sokha Beach Resort, Sihancouville, the country's main seaport and beach resort located on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand. It is the resort that is defined by the Kingdom as a special multi-purpose economic zone within the program of large-scale economic growth and diversification.
According to Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo HUN SEN, who opened the Forum, it provides a platform to encourage cooperation among ASEAN member states and promote the region as a unified destination with a diverse culture, cuisine and unique communities. The Forum was attended by the leaders and officials of tourism, international buyers and exhibitors (a total of 350 delegates from 27 countries) and it was covered by more than 50 media representatives, including Russian Travel Digest.
Tourism forums of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been held annually since 1981 and alternately in each of the participating countries - Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Forum was not held. Next year Indonesia to host the Forum.
According to Mr. Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the theme of the current Forum "ASEAN: Community of Peace and a Common Future" was chosen as a response to the current situation in the world and regions that are facing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, while each ASEAN member state implements its own tourism development and recovery policy. This theme highlights the common vision of ASEAN, reflecting the need to strengthen common solidarity to solve the pressing issues of the tourism industry.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ASEAN region experienced approximately 6% growth in the tourism sector. In 2019, this sector created 30 million direct jobs and contributed up to 10% of the total GDP. The share of travelers within ASEAN accounted about 40% of total international arrivals. However, over the past two years, the COVID-19 crisis has seriously affected the socio-economic sectors, especially in 2020. And the tourist flow in ASEAN countries has decreased by 80,5%, and tourism income by 75,8%.
In this regard, one of the goals of the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022 is to promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as one of the safest tourist destinations, because the governments of the ASEAN member countries are doing everything necessary for this.
One of the main events of the Forum is TRAVEX, a travel exhibition showcasing the latest travel trends in Southeast Asia. It is organized by the Ministry of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia in cooperation with MP Singapore, a professional in organizing such events. The exhibition includes 187 stands of tourism service providers - hotel owners, tour operators, travel agencies, national tourism offices, airlines, restaurateurs, owners of attractions and theme parks. TRAVEX is an opportunity for fruitful meetings of suppliers and buyers, both at Forum and virtually, aimed at establishing business and partnership relations for the sustainability and recovery of the tourism industry in the region.
In addition, the program of the Forum includes official meetings of the ASEAN members to develop work programs aimed at promoting the restoration of tourism in the region and a more sustainable future, meetings of tourism ministers and representatives of associations, as well as a number of excursions around the country, including a tour to the Angkor Wat temple complex (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), to Preah Monivong Bokor National Park and Siem Reap with a visit to Tonle Sap Lake.
Summing up the results of the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022, we can say with confidence that it was held at the highest level, and the organizers did their best to make it interesting and useful to all participants and make them feel comfortable.
Here, for example, is the opinion of Olga Terebova from Prodo, an international buyer from Russia: “This is my first time at ATF and it was an amazing experience! The flight from Moscow to Singapore and then to Phnom Penh was quite easy and only 1 hour in the transit area before the next flight. There are so many exhibitors, official delegations and interesting events here! I am very grateful to the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia and all the organizers for the opportunity to take part in the Forum. I would definitely recommend this event to my colleagues in my country."
Cambodia is an organic synthesis of the wonders of nature and the ancient history of mankind, embodied in the amazing monuments of the ancient Khmer civilization. But these are also resorts of the country with modern infrastructure and a rich variety of leisure activities that satisfy the most demanding tourists. Fruit abundance, delicious cuisine, and the friendliness of the local people are a nice bonus of staying in Cambodia, a great place for both summer and winter holidays.
On November 15, 2021, Cambodia reopened to fully vaccinated international travelers as part of the Safe and Clean Tourism campaign, a welcome step towards the recovery and sustainability of tourism in the ASEAN region and beyond. At the same time, tourists can enter the country by land, sea or air without any quarantine. This applies to all airports, waterways and checkpoints of the land border with Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. To enter, vaccinated travelers need to present a negative PCR test result made no earlier than 72 hours before departure, and upon arrival they have to make a free rapid antigen test, the result of which will be known in 15-20 minutes. In case of a negative result, tourists can go anywhere in the country.
As of January 10, 2022, 89,46% of Cambodia's 16 million people have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to statistics from the Cambodian Ministry of Health.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said, "Travelers' health is our top concern and we have made a plan to safely rebuild the tourism sector by using strict hygiene measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and instill confidence in our community."
The materials presented in this article were obtained by an accredited Russian Travel Digest journalist at the media briefings of the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022, at personal meetings and interviews with its participants.