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31 January 2024 - The 27th ASEAN Tourism Ministers’ Meeting (27th M-ATM) and related meetings were held in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, from the 23rd to 26th of January. The Malaysian delegation was led by Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dato Sri Tiong King Sing. The theme of the conference " Quality and Responsible Tourism – Sustaining ASEAN Future", emphasises on the importance of promoting cooperation among ASEAN countries and ensuring the sustainability and recovery capabilities of ASEAN tourism. During the meeting, Tiong also met with Mr Harry Hwang, UNWTO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary-General of ASEAN, Suanesavanh Vignaket, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism of Laos, Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, and Sok Soken, Cambodian Tourism Minister.

Bilateral exchanges were also held to enhance communication and mutual trust with respective regional neighbours. (Promoting self-drive tourism in Southeast Asia) Tiong also attended a meeting with ministers from Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam chaired by Thailand's Minister of Tourism and Sports Sudawan on the sidelines of the ATF 2024 to discuss self-drive tourism routes in Southeast Asia. Among several suggested travel routes that includes Malaysian locales were: 1. Hat Yai-Sungai Kolok - Kota Bharu - Kuala Lumpur 2. Hat Yai - Alor Setar - George Town Through “Self-drive tourism” plan, tourists will be able to enjoy the natural scenery, urban landmarks, historical context, cultural customs, and other attractions of different states in Malaysia. MOTAC pledged to proactively cooperate with the relevant departments and agencies and arrange further negotiations with the Thai government in the short term on the selection of self-drive tourism routes to promote the smooth launch of the plan.

"I am convinced that the above-mentioned plans will consolidate alliances among Southeast Asian countries, promote cultural exchanges, revitalise the tourism economy in Southeast Asia, and bring more income and employment opportunities to people of all countries.” (Tourist numbers in ASEAN is gradually recovering) Tiong pointed out that Malaysia and ASEAN countries have been actively promoting regional cooperation and emphasising the importance of cultural exchanges and unity to enhance ASEAN’s status as an important tourist destination. He believes that ASEAN countries are a community that is not limited to promoting tourist attractions, but also strives to create experiences that resonate with tourists, leave beautiful memories, and establish lasting connections with the ASEAN region.

Presently, the hotel and tourism industry are gradually regaining their vitality, and the changes, challenges and trends brought about by the post-pandemic era have entered a new phase. According to the World Tourism Barometer, it is encouraging that from January to September 2023, the number of international tourists has reached 87% of pre-pandemic levels. Tourist arrivals in the Asia-Pacific region have reached 62% of pre-pandemic levels. While certain geopolitical tensions and conflicts pose economic challenges and uncertainty, international tourism is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024. “Now is the time to fully realise the potential and huge opportunities that can be harnessed and tap into ASEAN’s potential as a new hub for global tourism.” (Malaysia holds the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN in 2025) During the meeting, Tiong said that Malaysia will serve as the rotating chair of ASEAN in 2025.

Malaysia hopes that member states can cooperate closely to implement various priority projects and initiatives. It will also present the results of a series of collaborative plans to leaders of various countries at the 2024 ASEAN Summit and the 2025 ASEAN Tourism Forum. During Malaysia’s tenure as chair, it will host the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Johor Bahru, with the theme of "United in Motion - Shaping ASEAN’s Tourism Tomorrow" to cultivate a sense of unity and cooperation that transcends geographical boundaries and cultural diversity. "We firmly believe that the 2025 ASEAN Tourism Forum will provide member countries with a platform to share best practices, explore innovative ideas and strengthen partnerships." In addition, Malaysia will also host the World Tourism Day and the World Tourism Conference in 2025. Both events will be held in the
historical city of Malacca, with the country’s unique cultural heritage, beautiful scenery, and warm hospitality on full display to the world.

The opening ceremony of the 2024 ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF 2024), which was held concurrently with the Tourism Ministers’ Meeting, was also held in Vientiane, Laos. The event aims to strengthen tourism cooperation, exchanges, publicity, promotion, and development. Kikeo Khaykhamphithoune, Deputy Prime Minister of the Laotian Government, tourism ministers of ASEAN countries and partner countries, national tourism agencies and tourism operators of ASEAN countries all attended the conference. Within the framework of this tourism forum, a number of important events were also held, including the 59th National Tourism Organization Meeting, the 2024 ASEAN International Tourism Expo (TRAVEX), the 44th ASEAN and China, Japan and South Korea National Tourism Organization Meeting, the 27th ASEAN Tourism Ministers' Meeting, the 11th ASEAN-India Tourism Ministers' Meeting, the 23rd ASEAN and China, Japan and South Korea Tourism Ministers' Meeting, the third ASEAN-Russia Tourism Ministers' Meeting, ASEAN Tourism Awards Ceremony, and ASEAN Tourism Ministers' Press Conference. 

YB Dato Sri Tiong King Sing
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture

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