THE 38th Asean Tourism Forum (ATF 2019) which took place from January 16 to 18, 2019 in the picturesque city of Ha Long successfully ended with impressive developments, showing a stronger force in the appeal and charm of Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) destinations. Host destination Vietnam (traditionally called Viet Nam) is proud to spotlight more than 70 of its best travel industry players in this year’s exhibition. Ha Long City is the capital of Quang Ninh Province and the gateway to world renowned Ha Long Bay, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
With the theme Asean: The Power of One, more than 1,500 delegates participated in over 100 meetings, business, education and social functions during a week-long event that also highlighted the 3-day Travex, a prestigious annual leisure travel trade mart component of ATF. Travex delegates — including tourism ministers, leaders of national tourism agencies, international organizations, and buyers — convened daily at Quang Ninh Exhibition of Planning and Expo Center (QNEPEC), which offered the largest showcase of Asean destination products and services. ATF 2019 drew the interest of global buyers from 53 countries while more than 140 international and local media representatives were in attendance to cover the latest regional travel developments through the NTO media briefings by all 10 member states.
A total of 400 delegates were hosted to this year’s event, including me and my colleague Ian Garcia of Mindanao Times, as Philippine media delegates. We stayed in the elegant Royal Lotus Halong Hotel for four days.
ATF promotes the Asean region as one tourist destination, with all the tourist industry sectors of the 10 member nations represented by top travel and tourism suppliers – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.
The Philippine contingent secured an impressive 270 sqm. booth to showcase local destinations, attractions, and special interest programs, with a number of leading Philippine companies in the airline, hospitality, and tour operations sector which participated.
Reinforcing the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) thrust of promoting the country as a responsible and sustainable tourism destination, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) focused on green destinations to attract high-spending tourists by offering community-based products. Part of TPB’s efforts is also strengthening the presence of the Philippines in international travel conferences and conventions. TPB Chief Operating Officer Marie Venus Tan said it is “imperative for the TPB to take part in the ATF to generate top-of-mind recall of the Philippines’ branding, ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ in line with invigorated efforts to promote it as an ideal tourist destination.”
While the ATF experience comprised of complimentary pre-show tours generously prepared for delegates (Ha Long Bay cruises, Lan Ha Bay-Hai Phong City, and trips to Yen Tu Mountain and Ninh), other major events were the Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City Night dinner party for international media on board the Ha Long Princess Cruise, the Opening Ceremony and Welcome Reception & Dinner by VNAT for all delegates, the Friendly Golf Game, Travex lunch and dinner hosted by Quang Ninh and FLC Resort, Brunei Night Reception and Philippines Late Night Function, and the Closing Ceremony of Visit Viet Nam Year 2018 & Gala Celebrating the Success of ATF 2019 for all delegates. The after dinner party hosted by the Philippines was much talked about for its fun performances and all night dancing by the delegates.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam, H.E. Nguyen Ngoc Thien, expressed his gratitude and that “the people of Quang Ninh province are honored to host ATF and invite all delegates to experience the natural beauty, warm people and endless adventures in Ha Long Bay. ATF is a platform for all Asean member states to build a stronger and more powerful position in the world stage with meaningful initiatives that boost tourism growth while preserving our unique and collective heritage, identity and culture for the next generation to experience.”
Meanwhile, Brunei gears itself for ATF 2020 as it prepares to showcase its offerings and the changes that have taken place in the decade since it last hosted ATF in 2010. For more information, visit www.atfvietnam2019.com.
Special thanks to partners who have supported me in this journey: PLDT Home - Smart, Printlife Official, AromacologySensi Philippines, Bioskin and MX3 which have shared proudly Davao products to give away to fellow delegates, and to the fun company of our former media colleague Salome Villaflor who is now general manager of Halong Paradise Suites.