Call to all tourists: Visit Asean, spend more, stay longer

Composer Dick Lee performing the song Rise with children from the Kids Performing Academy of the Arts at the Asean Tourism Forum yesterday. The Visit Asean@50 campaign coincides with Asean's 50th anniversary and will feature the region's 50 best fest
Composer Dick Lee performing the song Rise with children from the Kids Performing Academy of the Arts at the Asean Tourism Forum yesterday. The Visit Asean@50 campaign coincides with Asean's 50th anniversary and will feature the region's 50 best festivals and 50 most unforgettable travel experiences.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

New campaign aims to grow international tourist arrivals to 121 million by the year end

A new Asean marketing campaign has been launched to encourage more tourists to visit the region, spend more and stay longer.

The Visit Asean@50 campaign coincides with the 50th anniversary of Asean and will highlight the region's 50 best festivals and 50 most unforgettable travel experiences.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the campaign yesterday at the opening of a five-day Asean Tourism Forum attended by 750 participants, including representatives from the Asean countries.

The aim of the campaign is to grow international tourism arrivals to the region by 10 per cent to 121 million, spending to US$83 billion (S$118 billion) and the average length of stay to six to seven days by the end of the year. Mr Lee noted that reaching the tourism arrival target was "entirely achievable".

He suggested three ways to go beyond a marketing campaign to drive tourism growth in the region: Strengthen air links within Asean, promote cruises within the region and develop talent in the industry.

EFFORTS PAYING OFF

This market has been doing really well - good growth in terms of the middle class. So I think that people are more prepared to travel but, at the same time, it is also due to us expanding our presence, our marketing activities, into Tier 2 China cities.

MR OLIVER CHONG, STB's executive director of marketing capability, describing the rise in tourist arrivals from China as "phenomenal". The country is on track to becoming Singapore's top tourist market.

While Asean has made important progress in air travel, Mr Lee said there was still huge potential for numbers to grow, given that all Asean members had ratified the open-skies agreement. The agreement lifts restrictions on airline capacity and competition.

Asean, with its archipelagos, year-round tropical weather and calm waters, was also in a good position to promote cruise tourism, said Mr Lee, adding that Singapore will be the lead coordinator to develop cruise tourism in the region.

More will also be done to develop talent in the region and train workers in the industry.

Mr Lee said the Asean Tourism Research Association will offer two post-graduate scholarship schemes supported by four universities in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

He noted the importance of regional cooperation, given recent international events. Citing Brexit, the United States' election of a non-establishment candidate as president and the anxiety about jobs and immigrants in Europe, he said: "In many countries, the mood is to go it alone, unilaterally push for their own interests and doubt the value of mutual give-and-take on a rules-based international order."

In conjunction with the event, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) released the latest tourist arrival figures yesterday, which show a 7.9 per cent spike for the first 11 months last year compared with the same period in 2015.

China is also on track to becoming Singapore's top tourist market, after trailing behind Indonesia for at least 10 years.

Arrivals from China jumped 36 per cent to some 2.6 million visitors from January to November last year, compared with the same period in 2015. Indonesia was in second place with over 2.5 million.

Presenting the numbers at a press briefing, STB executive director of marketing capability Oliver Chong described the rise as "phenomenal" and attributed it to strong growth in Tier 2 Chinese cities like Kunming and Wuhan.

There was a 70 per cent boost in tourists from these cities in the first six months last year. The STB is now looking at "Tier 3" cities, said Mr Chong.

"This market has been doing really well - good growth in terms of the middle class. So I think that people are more prepared to travel but, at the same time, it is also due to us expanding our presence, our marketing activities, into Tier 2 China cities," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'Call to all tourists: Visit Asean, spend more, stay longer'. Print Edition | Subscribe