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ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2003: New Destination, Renewed Interest in ASEAN Tourism

Travel News Asia 17 January 2003

New places and new faces will figure strongly at the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2003 taking place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from 20 to 27 January.

For the first time in its 22-year history, the annual trade show of the best Southeast Asian travel and tourism products will be staged in Indochina, and Cambodia has the honour of being the first among the newer ASEAN members to host the event.

The full capacity of 400 booths at TRAVEX, the main event of ATF, has been taken up. Several new destinations and hospitality suppliers will join the line-up of regular exhibitors at ATF 2003. Among the new entrants are a strong contingent of tour operators, hotels and airlines from host country Cambodia its biggest-ever presence at ATF and a huge force from Indonesia representing all sectors of the tourism industry and far-flung parts of the archipelago. This will be Indonesias strongest showing at ATF, a strategy being taken by Thailand as well, given its convenient location beside the Indochina countries and the growing interest in the Greater Mekong region.

On the buyer front, there will be many new faces from emerging markets such as Eastern Europe, CIS/Russia and South America. Of the 400 hosted and trade buyers, 11 per cent are from these nations. Even among countries that are long-established buyers of ASEAN travel products, and whose trade members faithfully make this annual shopping trip to meet and contract with suppliers, there will be several new participants.

Veterans and newcomers alike have welcomed this freshness as it gives ATF a good mix of new and exciting products and people to look forward to, against a backdrop of time-tested, traditional staples. Cambodian Prime Minister Mr Samdech Hun Sen will open ATF 2003 on 24 January. He will simultaneously launch Visit Cambodia Year 2003 in a pleasant garden setting on the banks of the historic Mekong River. 

Senior Minister and Tourism Minister, Mr Veng Sereyvuth, said Cambodia welcomes the tremendous exposure that will come from staging ATF. My  ministry is coordinating with the Mayor of Phnom Penh and his office, the Ministries of Interior and Culture, and all relevant agencies to ensure that ATF and the Visit Cambodia Year campaign will be a resounding success.

Cambodia hopes to earn a substantial amount of foreign exchange from tourism each year that will help in its economic development. Tourism currently contributes about 10 per cent to Cambodias GDP.

Tourism Ministers will convene at ATF to discuss plans for cooperation outlined in the ASEAN Tourism Agreement signed by their Heads of  Government during the Eighth ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh last November. These strategies and initiatives will give impetus to the ATF 2003 theme, ASEAN Unity: Ensuring a Brighter Future.

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