Onsite: ASEAN Tourism Forum 2008

Pacific-Asia Editor Mark Rogers is on the scene at the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2008 (ATF 2008) in Bangkok at the IMPACT International Exhibition & Convention Centre. He continues with another report.

Thailand laid out initiatives for the coming year. Phornsiri Manoharn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said the country will increase its promotion of medical tourism and boutique hotels. "All over Thailand, one of the most important new trends is the emergence of a whole range of chic, boutique properties catering to niche markets," said Manoharn. She also noted that cruising will grow in Southeast Asia as the region's facilities develop, and she encouraged interested parties to visit http://www.cruiseasean.com. The Tourism Authority of Thailand will also continue to use the successful marketing slogan "Amazing Thailand" to promote the country.

The Philippines is intent on attracting higher-spending tourists. "We are selling the kinds of products that attract the higher-spending visitor," said Oscar P. Palabyab, undersecretary, Philippine Department of Tourism. "These are wellness, education, convention, shopping and honeymoon-these are the high value products we're looking for." Visitors to the Philippines are also staying longer, with 16 days being the average, up from an average nine days two years ago. This would seem to buck trends around the world where trips are getting shorter in length.

The Philippine Department of Tourism will also concentrate on developing the Central Philippines region, which they consider to have the greatest potential for growth. The Central Philippines comprises key tourist destinations such as Cebu, Boracay, Negros Oriental, Bicol and Palawan. The Central Philippines are visited by 55 percent of the tourists who come to the country, with Boracay and Cebu being the top destinations.

"We don't need the whole world to come to the Philippines," says Palabyab. "Just like an air-conditioned bus, we can only hold so much."

ATF 2008 has attracted the largest turnout of buyers and sellers in the forum's history, with 627 buyers (40 from the US) and 446 sellers of travel in Southeast Asia. ASEAN is comprised of ten member countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (MR)

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