SINGAPORE - A joint marketing campaign by 10 Southeast Asian countries to get more tourists to visit the region, spend more and stay longer was launched on Wednesday.
The campaign called the Visit Asean@50 coincides with the 50th anniversary of Asean and will highlight the region's best 50 festivals and 50 most unforgettable travel experiences.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who launched the campaign at the opening of the five-day Asean Tourism Forum on Wednesday, said the aim is to grow international tourism arrivals to the region by 10 per cent to 121 million, spending to USD83 billion ($118 billion) and average length of stay from six to seven days by the end of the year.
These targets, he said, was "an entirely achievable objective".
PM Lee 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 tourism industry.
The Asean Tourism Research Association will also be offering two post-graduate scholarship schemes, Mr Lee announced.
Four universities in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have pledged to offer scholarships to support the scheme.
Speaking to 750 participants including representatives from the Asean countries, Mr Lee also noted the importance of regional cooperation given recent international events.
Citing Brexit, the United States' election of non-establishment candidate Donald Trump 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 this uncertain global environment, Asean is an important life raft for all of us."