Vientiane, Lao PDR, 24 January 2013 – The ASEAN Tourism Forum was officially declared open on the 21st of January 2013 during a ribbon cutting ceremony by Laos’ deputy prime minister, Mr. Asang Laoly at the Lao International Convention Centre. He was joined by tourism ministers from ASEAN member countries.
The ceremony was followed by the TRAVEX briefing session held on the 22nd of January 2013, when the business appointment scheduling began with the Seller-Meet-Buyer (SMB) session and later, the Buyer-Meet-Seller session on the exhibition floor.
“A lot of new buyers this year, great quality,” “ATF always delivers, I’m happy to be back this year” and “ASEAN sellers are creating increasingly interesting and exciting products,” are some of the comments that were heard from the participants. During the next two business days of the event, ASEAN travel and tourism sellers and buyers from across the world talked business and explored new opportunities.
ATF’s education component, the ASEAN Tourism Conference (ATC) was very well attended by ATF TRAVEX delegates and Lao university students. Mr. Mario Hardy, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, PATA Foundation kicked off the conference with his keynote speech, followed by an interview with moderator, Mr. Imtiaz Muqbil. Speakers, Datuk Dr. Victor Wee, Mr. Umberto Cadamuro, Mr. Jimmy Sim and Mr. Anthony Wong shared statistics, experiences and practical tips on how destination management companies, hotels, tourists and locals can embrace eco-tourism in a way that is sustainable, responsible and profitable to all stakeholders.
The audience was positive about the quality of the speakers and the content of the conference. Said Mr. Nikolaus Lohmann, Managing Director of Earth TV Network GmbH, “The speeches and panel discussion were fascinating and I think this discussion about eco-tourism needs to be taken to the world stage. ASEAN has learnt from the mistakes of earlier movers and is now full of great projects to encourage eco-tourism.”
The international and local media showed up in full strength at the NTO media briefings of Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Delegates have made the most of the variety of networking opportunities such as the hosted luncheons by the Laos Host Committee and the Malaysian Gala Dinner hosted by Tourism Malaysia, including the late night functions by the Philippines Department of Tourism and the Pattaya Variety Night by Tourism Authority of Thailand.
During the closing ceremony during the evening of the 24th of January 2013, the ATF flag was handed over from Laos to Malaysia, which was received by the Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism, Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen. All eyes are now set on next year’s host, Malaysia, which will hold the ATF in Kuching, Sarawak. It is expected that 600 buyers and 1,000 sellers will attend ATF 2014.