Asean is preparing the region for a projected 10-fold increase in cruise passengers to 4.5 million by 2035 through infrastructure development, improved onshore activities, and training of staff.
The moves are part of the joint declaration on cruise tourism that Asean tourism ministers will be developing, said Minister of Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran.
Speaking at the Asean Tourism Ministers press briefing held at Pan Pacific Singapore yesterday, Mr Iswaran said: "The industry assessment is that South-east Asia has significant potential to grow and become a substantial region for the cruise industry."
Last year, 450,000 passengers were estimated to have sailed through the region, said Mr Iswaran. Citing figures from 2014 on cruise development in the region, he said the industry contributed US$1.6 billion (S$2.3 billion) in direct expenditure and created about 34,000 jobs.
He said cruise tourism is a "network product" that requires collaboration with all Asean states.
He added that Singapore, as the Asean lead coordinator for cruise development, has undertaken a few initiatives, including a cruise dialogue held on Thursday.
On overall tourism to Asean, Mr Iswaran yesterday said the region is expected to have received 116 million international visitors last year.
"It is significant that it is dominated by intra-Asean travel - 40 per cent - and also travellers originating from our partner countries, in particular, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea," he said.
As part of the five-day annual Asean Tourism Forum, which ended yesterday, awards were given out to organisations that have contributed to the tourism sector of their respective countries.
The Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association and Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee won the inaugural tourism awards in the community- based category. It honours bodies that have protected "valued socio-cultural traditions and natural and cultural heritage resources".