The ASEAN Tourism Association (ASEANTA) Board has made an unusual move of bringing together several travel industry associations at ATF 2018 to facilitate a more coordinated approach to resolving issues such as market penetration and courtship of Muslim travellers.
Cheah Swee Hee, ASEANTA president, pointed out that this decision has resulted in a “merrier” ASEAN airlines meeting on Monday, as three member airlines – Thai Airways, AirAsia and Philippine Airlines – are joined by NTO representatives from Indonesia and Thailand as well as ASEANTA Board members.
Explaining the benefit of bringing all parties together, Cheah said: “Member airlines target different market segments and can contribute to our plans. Philippine Airlines, for example, is strong in North America, so we can work with it should we hope to grow that market.”
He added that NTO presence was also valuable as they were the ones to bring travellers into their destination and garner critical support from their governments and airport authorities to expand an airline’s network.
Airline, NTO and ASEANTA Board members also discussed on Monday ways to improve intra-ASEAN travel for Muslims, an increasingly attractive segment in the region.
Desiree Bandal, Philippines AirAsia’s head of government policy & ASEAN, told TTG Asia: “AirAsia hopes for the tourism industry in South-east Asia to create increased awareness about halal-compliant products and services, and make them more readily available across the region.
“South-east Asia’s population comprises around 40 per cent Muslims, with Malaysia and Indonesia being the biggest tourist source markets. As we continue to promote intra-ASEAN travel, it is important that the needs of Muslim tourists from the region are met.”
Cheah is engaging his peers from the ASEAN Hotel & Restaurant Association (AHRA) and the Federation of ASEAN Travel Associations as well, through separate meetings during ATF 2018.
He noted that stakeholders within South-east Asia’s tourism sector were dependent on each other and only by helping each other – such as through the sharing of business information – would they meet their business objectives.
For example, he believes that the ASEANTA Board can share knowledge on halal tourism with AHRA members to enable more hotels to be Muslim-friendly.
Cheah acknowledged that a single meeting would not bring about immediate solutions, so numerous and regular meetings with various travel industry associations in this region would be arranged going forward.