In just a decade since the first agreement was inked to liberalise air services within South-east Asia, passenger traffic within Asean countries has jumped by more than 90 per cent, on the back of strong tourism growth.
Closer ties between the 10-member grouping and China have also boosted air links between both markets, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min, who spoke on how countries have benefited from greater connectivity across the region.
Last year, the number of Chinese tourists to South-east Asia hit 25 million, up from 10 million before the signing of the Asean-China Air Transport Agreement in 2011. Since the pact, the number of direct air links have risen more than fivefold to over 500, providing more flexible and convenient travel options between China and this region. The number of Chinese tourists visiting Singapore also grew from 1.6 million to 3.4 million, Dr Lam told Parliament during the debate on the Transport Ministry's budget.
Singapore's extensive air links to China help connect Chinese passengers to the region, with the Singapore/Malaysia/Thailand tour itinerary a popular one, he added. The Singapore Tourism Board, Changi Airport Group and Royal Caribbean International have also partnered to sail Chinese Fly-Cruise tourists from Singapore to other parts of South-east Asia.
Dr Lam said: "This is why Singapore participates actively in establishing stronger links between the region and the rest of the world."
He added that negotiations on air transport agreements between Asean and the European Union, and between Asean and Japan, are also ongoing. "These agreements would further boost economic ties, and enable the aviation industries of these countries to better tap the Asia-Pacific market," he said.
Similarly, maritime connectivity plays an important role in supporting the growing region, he noted, and Singapore will continue to play its part. "We have built a reliable and densely connected network, by anchoring key shipping lines and alliances that ply the main shipping route from Asia to Europe," he said.
Singapore's port, with its strong complementary feeder network to Asean ports, helps ensure goods manufactured in the region can be delivered efficiently worldwide.
New maritime trade routes are also being developed. The new international land sea trade corridor under the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative speeds up travel time to ship goods to China, saving time and money for businesses in Asean.