Tourism, driving engine for economic growth

President U Thein Sein delivers speech at opening of the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2015.—mna
President U Thein Sein delivers speech at opening of the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2015.—MNA

Nay Pyi Taw, 26 Jan — President U Thein Sein attended the opening of the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2015 at Myanmar International Convention Centre-II, here, on Monday evening.
Before the opening ceremony, the President received tourism ministers from ASEAN countries, the secretary general of the UN World Tourism Organization and officials.
The president delivered an address at the opening ceremony. He said: I am delighted to officiate the opening of the 34th ASEAN Tourism Forum which is the most important annual meeting in the context of tourism cooperation of ASEAN.
In the last year, 2014, Myanmar had successfully taken ASEAN Chairmanship and hosted the 24th and 25th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits in Nay Pyi Taw. Myanmar has worked together with other member countries and dialogue partners towards the realization of a politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible ASEAN Community.
During this period of strategic political and economic reforms, there have been remarkable progresses in the respective sectors of the country. In particular, the tourism and the telecommunication sector have achieved significant progress.
In the same year, Myanmar has attained a new milestone in its cultural identity and history by succeeding with its entry of three Pyu ancient cities namely, Hanlin, Beikthano and Sri Kestra onto the World heritage List, as an outcome of the 30th Session of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee held in Doha, Qatar.
The ASEAN Tourism Forum 2015 takes place at an important juncture as the year 2015 marks an important milestone for the ASEAN Economic Community which will be celebrated at the end of this year.
This year’s theme for the ASEAN Tourism Forum “ASEAN: Tourism towards Peace, Prosperity and Partnership”, captures the important elements that the ASEAN Tourism Sector can bring in for the ASEAN Economic Community.

According to the UNWTO Tourism highlights, the international tourist arrivals in 2013 grew by 5% with 1.08 billion arrivals and international tourism receipts of US$1159 billion in 2013. This contributed to 9% of worldwide GDP, 1 in 11 jobs and 6% of the world’s exports which has highlighted the importance of tourism to global economic prosperity and stability.

With regard to ASEAN tourism performance in 2013, the total international arrivals to the region was 99.2 million with a growth of 11.73%. The intra-ASEAN Travel accounted for 45.6 million arrivals which was 46% of international arrivals. This illustrates how significant ASEAN is for both inbound and outbound tourism.
I am pleased to note that the ASEAN Tourism Sector has seen considerable positive growth in the consecutive years. This intra-regional travel growth is significant and also supports the theme of “ASEAN for ASEAN”.
When we look at the Myanmar Tourism Sector, 2012 marked a tourism milestone for Myanmar as the country welcomed over a million tourists for the first time. We saw another milestone with visitor numbers reaching 2.04 million in 2013 with an increase of 93.04%. Last year, we received 3.08 million visitors with an increase of 51%.

Union Minister for Hotels and Tourism U Htay Aung accepts Best in Travel AEC Country from Editor in Chief of Lonely Planet Traveller.—mna
Union Minister for Hotels and Tourism U Htay Aung accepts Best in Travel AEC Country from Editor in Chief of Lonely Planet Traveller.—MNA

If we continuously maintain the existing growth rate, we can expect to receive nearly 4.5 million visitors in 2015. If we can promote more peace, stability, and relaxation for travel restrictions for both international and regional tourists, the arrivals in 2015 can increase up to 5 million.
As you all know, tourism is a driving engine for economic growth. It has also been associated with various negative impacts on culture, nature and socioeconomic conditions of the host country.
Therefore, “Myanmar Responsible Tourism Policy” and “Policy on Community Involvement in Tourism” have been successfully adopted with the close collaboration of International Development Partners to achieve equitable economic growth and environmental and cultural sustainability.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism who is responsible for overseeing the systematic development of tourism has adopted the “Myanmar Tourism Master Plan (2013-2020)” with assistance from the Government of Norway and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It is a road map for the sustainable development of Myanmar tourism.
As a result of the public-private-people collaboration, Myanmar has now become an emerging tourist destination in the world and received “Best in Travel AEC Country Award 2014” presented by Lonely Planet Traveller.
During this Forum, I believe, through the meetings and consultations in the past few days, you had fruitful and productive outcomes and also a great networking opportunity among the members and Dialogue Partners.
Secretary General of UNWTO Dr Taleb Rifai made a speech.
The Editor in Chief of Lonely Planet Traveller presented Best in Travel AEC Country to Union Minister for Hotels and Tourism U Htay Aung.
The union minister presented best ASEAN marketing and promotional campaign award to Datuk Dr. Ong Hong Peng, best ASEAN cultural preservation effort award to Ms Regina Lopez and best ASEAN travel article award to Ms Desiree Bandal.
Officials presented best ASEAN conservation efforts award and best ASEAN airline programme award to the winners.
In the evening, the President hosted a dinner to the guests at MICC-2.
The ASEAN Tourism Forum 2015 will be held up to 27 January.—MNA

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