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ASEAN Tourism Pact to be signed at Phnom Penh Summit

Travel News Asia 4 November 2002

Heads of state of the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries are to sign the region's first tourism cooperation and promotion agreement at their 8th Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, between November 4-7, 2002.

The agreement is designed to give a major boost to facilitation of intra-ASEAN travel, market access, safety and security, joint marketing and promotion campaigns, sustainable development as well as human resources development.

Thailand's Minister of Tourism and Sports H.E. Mr. Sontaya Kunplome commented, "The Agreement will give a further impetus to the work being done by the ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) to promote tourism flows to/from and within the region. It will also boost our regional joint tourism "Visit ASEAN Campaign." The Agreement will have a significant impact on the future of travel to and within ASEAN. Article 2 of the Agreement says: "Member states shall facilitate travel within and into ASEAN by:

Extending visa exemption arrangement for nationals of ASEAN Member States travelling within the region on the basis of bilateral visa exemption agreements concluded between Member States that are ready to do so;

Harmonising the procedures for issuing visas to international travellers;

Phasing out travel levies and travel taxes on nationals of ASEAN Member States travelling to other ASEAN Member States;

Encouraging the use of smart cards for ASEAN business and frequent travellers and, where appropriate, for cross-border travel on the basis of bilateral agreements concluded between Member States that are ready to do so;

Improving communications with international travellers through the use of universal symbols and multi-lingual signs and forms; and

Easing the process of issuance of travel documents and progressively reducing all travel barriers."

The initiative for signing the ASEAN Tourism Agreement was raised by Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen during the 7th ASEAN Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Indonesia in November 2001.

At the 5th NTOs meeting in Yogyakarta earlier in 2002, tourism-related ministers endorsed the ASEAN Tourism Agreement as a "reaffirmation at the highest political levels of the importance of the travel and tourism sector for ASEAN economic integration and in the greater mutual understanding and solidarity amongst the people of ASEAN."

They also welcomed an offer by Cambodian Senior Minister and Tourism Minister Mr. Veng Sereyvuth to lead a high-level task force to formulate the agreement for signing at the 8th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh.

The background of tourism cooperation in the ASEAN region dates back to 1976 when the ASEAN Committee on Trade and Tourism set up a sub-committee to deal exclusively with the sector.

Its tourism-related achievements included the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) organised annually since 1981, the successful Visit ASEAN Year campaign in 1992, the Visit ASEAN Campaign in 2001, the progressive negotiations under the Free Trade Agreement on Services as well as the inaugural meeting of ASEAN+3 with China, Japan and Korea.

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