BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN –  Tourist arrivals in Southeast Asia continue to grow despite the global economic slowdown, said the deputy secretary-general for the ASEAN Economic Community.

In a press conference to conclude the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2020  in Brunei last Thursday, Dr Aladdin D Rillo said the region reported five percent growth in tourist arrivals, exceeding the global average of four percent last year.

Southeast Asia recorded 133 million international arrivals in 2019, with intra-ASEAN travel making up 36.7 per cent of total arrivals in 2018.

However, the Dr Rillo said the bigger challenge is harnessing digitalisation and technology to make tourism a key driver of economic growth in the region.

Improving digital tourism services will be a key factor in improving the traveller experience and accessing information about the region, he added.

A statement issued following a meeting of ASEAN tourism ministers last Thursday focused on enhancing efforts to market ASEAN as a single tourism destination.

Several aims were outlined to make ASEAN tourism more sustainable and inclusive, such as upgrading local communities and public-private sector participation; ensuring safety and security; prioritising protection and management of heritage sites; and increasing responsiveness to environmental protection and climate change.

Cambodia will host ATF 2021 from January 17 to 23, with the theme ‘ASEAN – A Community of Peace and Shared Future’.