The ASEAN Tourism Forum 2008 (ATF 2008) officially opened Tuesday at the IMPACT International Exhibition & Convention Centre in Bangkok. Sellers and buyers of travel in Southeast Asia have gathered to do business at ATF 2008, which will run through Jan. 26. ASEAN is comprised of ten member countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
This year, the buzzword at the forum is "synergy." In his opening remarks, Dr. Suvit Yodmani, minister of tourism and sports, Kingdom of Thailand, encouraged members to think of ASEAN as a single destination, and to consider themselves partners rather than competitors. Last year, ASEAN countries welcomed a total of 56 million visitors, an eight percent increase over 2006.
A Singapore media briefing revisited growth in 2007 and showcased things to come in 2008. Singapore will beat the drum heavily for the upcoming 2008 Formula One SingTel Singapore Grand Prix, to be held September 28, 2008. This will be Asia's first street race, and the first night race in Formula One history.
Singapore will also see 10 new hotels in 2008, adding an additional 1,700 rooms to the country's inventory. Key drivers for growing the country's tourism will include aggressive marketing efforts, more affordable travel options, new tourism products and improved access into Singapore with the addition of the new Changi Airport Terminal Three.
Thai Airways will focus efforts on attracting a targeted part of the groups market by reaching out to business groups of 50 or smaller. "We can envision flying groups this size on direct flights from New York to Bangkok," said Pandit Chanapai, executive vice president, commercial, Thai Airways. Look for Thai Airways to continue to foster direct sales through the Internet. "Reducing fares is not an option-fares can only go up," Chanapai said. "We can't ignore the $100 a barrel price of oil and wafer-thin profit margins." (MR)