ATF Asean Destination Updates

Earlier this month, we ran daily update-presentations* on by the 10-Asean DMOs (destination marketing organisation) at the Asean Tourism Forum event in Halong Bay, Vietnam.


This is a reworked presentation of that information. As the amount of information presented by the DMOs varies, our reports also vary in length.


Presentations by non-DMOs are included at the beginning, started by our calculation of Asean visitor counts.



-A report on this topic in our WYSK-What-You-Should-Know monthly-report contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.

-Asean = Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean writes ‘Southeast’, even though that should make the abbreviation ASAN). Asean members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.



Asean visitor counts

Based on official statements made at ATF presentations, but including some estimates and extrapolations* by Travel Business Analyst, we total Asean’s DMOs forecasts to note that there is forecast to be 158mn +13% visitors this year in their 10 destinations.


However, this is unlikely to be achieved; we count 2018 growth as only +7% to 140mn, and 2017 +8% to 131mn.



-One major adjustment is growing Singapore’s count to match methodology in other destinations.

-A report on this topic in our WYSK-What-You-Should-Know monthly-report contains some additional totals (by reducing some counts to match Singapore’s methodology), and 5- and 10-year growth comparisons.



MTCO, Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office

-Has 5- and 10-year strategic plans.

-Among its many activities on social media, has started Mekong Moments – storytelling for everyone – and held the first Mekong Mini Film Festival.

-Prepares comprehensive market reports. Completed in 2018 was Aviation in its region; due this March is Responsible Tourism.

-Its 2018 tourism conference was plastic free. This year’s event will be in Dali, Yunnan, China, which has a new high-speed train service.

-Overtourism. Thailand is doing the most. But many places are trying to spread tourism to other regions – like Cambodia to its southern part of the country. In some, the aim is for quality tourism, by which they usually mean bigger spenders.

-To measure the success of MTCO activities, it has various KPIs (key performance indicators), some which are on the website.



-Asean has many apparently-overlapping activities. Launched Asean Tourism Marketing Strategy for 2017-20, although there is also an Asean Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-25.

-It targets to attract visitors from certain geographic sectors; there are six, but basically they cover the world excluding Africa and Latin America.

-Much promotional activity is built on promoting Asean as a single destination. The authorities are still not aware that few, if any, travellers visit ‘Asean’. They just visit countries that are Asean members. The same applies to the European Union; few visit the ‘EU’, just some of the 28 destinations countries that are EU members.

-As a further confusion of its message, Asean is now doing a promotion under an old slogan – ‘Southeast Asia; Feel the Warmth’. Not only is the Asean ‘brandname’ not used in this promotion, neither is its logo; ‘SE-Warmth’ has its own.




-We estimate 2018 visitor arrivals at 0.27mn +4.5.

-The DMO forecasts 2019 visitor arrivals at 0.28mn; that would be +2.5% but the DMO says +14.5%.

-Introduced new logo/slogan in 2018. ‘Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures’ has become ‘Abode of Peace’.

-RBA started a few routes in 2018, including to London, which the DMO was hoping would produce a last-month boost to the arrivals total. In 2019, it plans to and Changsha and Narita.



-Estimated 2018 visitor arrivals at 6.2mn +12%.

-Forecast 2019 visitor arrivals +12%, which would mean 6.94mn.

-Recent developments: self-drive vehicle-caravans with cross-border travel; autoroute Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville due 2023.

-No plans to add visa-free, certainly for its main market China, because with about-2mn visitors, it brings a lot of money for Cambodia.



-Estimated 2018 visitor arrivals at just over 15mn. That looks too high as it would have meant an annual +16% growth but it had managed only +13% Jan-Nov.

-Forecast 2019 visitor arrivals at 20mn, which would mean +33% and thus also looks unlikely. However, that 20mn was forecast by Indonesia’s current president Joko Widodo (known as Jokowi) when he was elected in 2014 (new elections are due this year). And officials may be reluctant to change it, despite new realities.

-In fact, 17mn was the target for 2018, but the country’s natural disasters* slowed arrivals.

-The ‘tourism sector’ (believed to be the inbound visitor business) is currently No2 economic activity this year, after agriculture. The DMO believes it will be No 1 in 2020.

-The DMO continues with its policy – started 25 years ago – of promoting areas other than Bali. It has now identified other destinations in the country – collectively called ‘10 New Balis’ – for this promotion.

-The DMO also hopes to attract visitors into Singapore to extend their trip with a visit to the secondary centres in Indonesia. But as most leisure travellers move on fixed-date air tickets, these plans seem unlikely to be successful.

-Jakarta’s metro is due to open this May.

-*Natural disasters. There were many (over 2000), but the largest were Lombok earthquakes, July/August (over 400 deaths); Sulawesi earthquakes, September/October (2000); Sunda Strait tsunami, December (400).



-Poor data provision. Based on statements and indicative figures, we estimate 2018 visitor arrivals at 3.5mn -10%. This for a year designated Visit Laos Year; the original 2018 target was 5mn.

-DMO forecasts 2019 visitor arrivals again at 5mn, which would mean +43%. Normally that would seem a hard target, but some factors may help this to be realised:

-1. A damn collapse in July 2018 negatively affected visitor counts that year.

-2. The DMO targets arrivals from China to grow from 500k in 2018 to 1mn this year. That would be one-third of the additional needed.

-A high-speed train from China’s Yunnan province, through Laos and on to Thailand is due to start in 2021.



-We estimate 2018 visitor arrivals at 25.6mn -1.3%.

-Forecast 2019 visitor arrivals at 26.3mn +2.7%.

-DMO is working of 50/50 funding promotions with airlines, but not yet agreed.



-Estimated 2018 visitor arrivals at 3.55mn +3.2%.

-Forecast 2019 visitor arrivals at 5.5mn, which would mean +55%.


The complication is Myanmar’s Rohingya refugee crisis, where an estimated 600,000 have fled Myanmar to refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh. Most observers blame Myanmar’s army for forcing this, and the government for doing nothing about it, and mainly denying there is a problem.


The Rohingya matter is probably the main reason for slow growth in visitors in 2018, although we are surprised that there was not a fall. In recent years, when Myanmar was considered a friendly country, annual growth rates had been +50% and higher. But it seems unless there is a substantial positive turnaround in statements, policies and actions concerning the Rohingya, this target seems unlikely to be achieved.


-China is forecast to be the biggest market this year, overtaking Thailand.

-Has added visa-on-arrivals for nationals of China and India.

-In 2018 launched new promotional video, Be Enchanted.

-Aviation is still a problem; three domestic airlines went out of business in 2018, perhaps because of weak sales – foreign passengers pay double the price locals pay.

-There is an agreement with Cambodia over religious tourism between Bagan and Siem Reap, but has not been started.


-New visitor brand ‘Myanmar: Be Enchanted’

-Visa-free extended to nationals of Japan, Korea, Macau, Hong Kong, with visa-on-arrival for China and India nationals.



-Estimated 2018 visitor arrivals at 7.1-7.4mn, about +12%.

-Forecast 2019 visitor arrivals at 7.98mn +10%.

-Claims that share of ‘tourism’ (not defined) grew from 8.6% of GDP in 2016 to 12.2% in 2017. However, the share is extremely unlikely grow that much in one year (near 50%) without a special reason – such as collapse of another big segment of the economy, or a change in measurement systems. The DMO was not able to clarify, which to us indicates that the figures are wrong, or require additional qualification.

-14 hotels with 4700 rooms were opened in 2018, most (eight, 3412 in Metro Manila), due this year are 10 with 2600 rooms (six, 1670), and in 2020 three with 835. See table.

-Convention centres due to open this year – SMXs in Cebu and Clark.

-Philippine Airlines is planning a second route into Europe – Rome or Paris.

-New airports at Bohol-Panglao, Cagayan North, T2 at Mactan Cebu. Planned: Bicol, Manila, Zamboanga.

-The rehabilitation of Boracay was followed by its reopening last October. The 2nd phase is due to be completed this April, and the final phase December. Only 293 properties with 10,067 rooms are allowed to operate at present. The government allows only 6000 visitors daily.



-Estimated 2018 visitor arrivals at 17.6-18.1mn, which would be about +2%.

-DMO, as usual, will not provide a forecast for 2019 visitor arrivals until the organisation has formally decided its position, due to be next month. We forecast 18.6mn +4%.


As noted below, Singapore’s new promotional theme is based around ‘passion’. This cannot succeed – as illustrated by the DMO’s approach to statistics. Many officials in Singapore find it hard to break out of the formal mode (and provide, in this case, an ‘unofficial estimate’). To break out requires a form of passion. Singapore’s DMO sticks rigidly to formal formats; no passion here.


-Cruise passenger throughput 1.38mn +17% – but for 2017; no information for 2018.

-In 2017 the DMO launched ‘Passion Made Possible’ as its theme.

-The meeting between North Korea and US presidents, held in Singapore, is calculated to have brought US$500mn’s worth of promotion.

-There are a few developments this year:

-1. 200th anniversary of the arrival in Singapore of Sir Stamford Raffles, considered the founder of modern Singapore – although the history is more complex than that.

-2. Due to open at Singapore’s Changi airport is Jewel – a commercial and entertainment complex, not just for air travellers.

-3. Design Orchard. A complex housing 60 local designers, a sort-of modern crafts village.



-Estimated 2018 visitor arrivals at 38mn +7%.

-Forecast 2019 visitor arrivals at 42mn +10%.

-Has nominated 55 secondary provinces in Thailand to spread leisure visitors around the country. However, that is almost whole country; there are only 22 other provinces. The 55 are those than get fewer than 4mn visitors (domestic and international). Has divided these 55 into three tiers, depending on their preparedness for visitors.

-Pairs specific destinations with specific markets, such as Japanese to a certain destinations.

-Also wants to encourage more mid-week travel rather than weekend.

-Styrofoam and plastic banned from public parks. It wants to reduce tourism waste by 50% by 2020.

-A high-speed rail is planned between the two Bangkok airports and uTapao (for Pattaya). However, this is only at the survey stage; construction may start this year – but we are sceptical.

-eVisa starting with China from next month, and then other countries.

-The DMO wants to attract bigger spenders, in the name of ‘quality’ visitors.



-Estimated 2018 visitor arrivals at 15.5mn +20%.

-Forecast 2019 visitor arrivals at 17.5-18mn, about +14.5%, although this is Visit Vietnam Year.

-Adding an app for leisure visitors in English and Vietnamese; hopes to add Chinese, Korean, Russian this year.

-Added to eVisa availability; now 43 nationalities.

-This September’s ITE travel trade exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City will be the 15th.


New hotels in the Philippines
2018 Rooms
Metro Manila
Seda Circuit, Makati 255
Seda BCG Tower 342
Westin Bayshore 600
Mercure, Ermita 500
Movenpick 324
Sheraton 350
Hilton 357
Savoy 684
Other regions
Courtyard, Iloilo 314
Seda Lio, Palawan 153
Holiday Inn, Baguio 185
One Central, Cebu 157
Seda Ayala Centre, Cebu 301
Seda Capital, Bacolod 154
Total 4676
Metro Manila
Seda Arca 200
Novotel Suites 310
Seda Bay Area 289
Westin Sonata Place 250
Seda Ayala North Exchange 312
Dusit D2 Fort 310
Sheraton Mactan 214
Seda Central Bloc 271
Dusit Mactan 125
Dusit Princess 295
Total 2576
Okura, Manila 380
Mandarin Oriental, Manila 275
Holiday Inn, Cebu 180
Total 835
Source: Tourism Promotion Board, Philippines.


The Fox. Remember, I’m an industry expert in the parallel world.

*Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.