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Operators urge 'neutrality' for Visit ASEAN@50 travel packages
Raini Hamdi, reporting from ATF 2017, Singapore, January 17, 2017
 

Tour operators believe ASEAN’s 50th anniversary this year is a golden chance to increase business to South-east Asia, but stress the need for ‘neutrality’, ‘coordination’ and ‘cooperation’.

 

The official launch of the Visit ASEAN@50 campaign will be held this Wednesday evening at the by-invitation-only ATF opening gala. Fifty cross-border packages have been selected for the campaign, which aims to increase international arrivals to the region to 121 million by the end of this year, from 109 million in 2015. 

 

Bagan, Myanmar

 

Although the e-brochure of 50 packages is lauded as a good initiative to show off South-east Asia’s diverse attractions and the various ways to do a multi-country holiday, it has also raised a question of neutrality.

 

“The key point for an ASEAN brochure done by governments (or an ASEAN office representing governments) is to remain neutral. It is obviously not, since packages are offered with booking ability to specific companies. Some are tour operators, others are DMCs, it’s confusing. It should be neutral. The packages are standard and can be handled by any professional DMC, hence a direct consumer could contact his travel professional, or any travel professional could contact the company he works with (for the packages),” said Laurent Kuenzle, CEO, Asian Trails Group.

 

When asked how the packages were selected, Wardi Haji Mohammad Ali, deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism, Brunei Darussalam, said each ASEAN NTO, and ASEANTA, was asked to choose “modern multi-country tour products that were indicative of the quality and variety that their destination offered”. The NTOs must be proud to showcase the tour products, he added.

 

The majority is from tour operators, but most of the cruise products are new, he shared.

 

The packages are meant for B2C. “However, if consumer-facing travel agents in overseas markets see a tour they could sell, we would encourage them to contact the tour provider. So, the brochure could have a viable B2B role too,” he said.

 

While the e-brochure kickstarts the campaign, there will be other initiatives, including media fam trips showcasing South-east Asia’s connectivity and multi-country travel routes; campaign promotion at key tradeshows; cooperative marketing programmes with travel, media and airline partners; advertising; social media campaigns; and additional publicity, trade marketing, international and sector marketing activities throughout 2017.

 

“It is a special opportunity, but the key question is, where will (consumers in source markets see the promotion)?” asked Darren Lancaster, director One World - Travel Sales & Marketing, UK. “Without a coordinated promotional campaign across the source markets aimed at increasing quality visitor numbers, much of the Visit ASEAN@50 campaign work may go unseen.”

 

David Kevan, director, Chic Locations UK, points to the role of the ASEAN private sector.

 

“I would like to see more involvement of national airlines to promote multi-centre regional travel, so cooperate rather than compete. For example, a combination of Singapore/Bali/Thailand with Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines offering one-way fares (55 per cent of the return inclusive tour fare) to encourage more regional travel. At the moment they are obsessed with low-cost return fares, in and out of the same point.”

 

Addie Pornthip, managing director Thailand of Destination Asia, summed it up: “This a wonderful opportunity for all countries within the ASEAN community to work together for the benefit of all to help promote the cross-country experiences and opportunities!”

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