ASEAN Forum: Countries lock down as long haul expects tough year

Tourism authorities in South East Asia are focusing marketing efforts on neighbouring countries in anticipation of a downturn in visitors from Europe and the US.

Industry leaders gathered at the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Hanoi all forecast a difficult year for long-haul travel.

Incoming Pacific-Asia Travel Association president and chief executive Gregory Duffell said: “It is going to be a challenging year. There is no point increasing marketing. You would be throwing money away. This is a time to conserve money. The best opportunities are regional.”

The Assocation of South East Asian Nations comprises 10 countries, including long-haul mainstays of the UK travel trade such as Thailand, Singapore and the Indonesian island of Bali.

ASEAN Tourism Marketing Taskforce chairman Oscar Palabyab said: “We expect a fall in tourism traffic this year and next.”

Vietnam’s deputy tourism minister, Tran Chien Thang, said the country would aim its small marketing budget at regional traffic. “We will set our targets not so high for Europe,” he said.

Indonesia said its focus would be on short and medium-haul markets.

Singapore promised to buck the trend, promising a global campaign to promote the city-state as a quality but value-for-money destination, despite its costly reputation.

However, Singapore Tourism Board chief executive Aw Kah Peng said: “We will put a lot more emphasis on regional marketing and focus on our ASEAN partners.”

Malaysia also pledged promotions to “revive long-haul markets”.

A spokesman for the country’s tourism board said: “We are confident we will see more arrivals from the UK.”

Indochina Hotels and Resorts chief executive Baron Ah Moo said: “The focus will be on regional travel in 2009.

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