ASEAN Tourism Research Association (ATRA), together with Taylor's University, Malaysia and Centre for Research and Innovation in Tourism (CRiT), recently co-organized the 10th ATRA Tourism Forum entitled "Unlock the Borders & Reboot ASEAN Tourism!". The webinar was presented by an excellent mixture of professionals from academia and industry in ASEAN. The opening remark was delivered by Prof. Dr. Neethiahnanthan Ari Ragavan, President of ATRA and Executive Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure Management, Taylor's University. Meanwhile, YBhg. Datuk Musa Hj. Yusof, Deputy Director General (Promotion) Tourism Malaysia contributed as the Keynote Speaker during the forum.
The session was moderated by Dr. Puvaneswaran Kunasekaran, Honorary Treasurer of ATRA and Senior Lecturer from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Key representatives from the Hospitality and Tourism sector in ASEAN were invited to share their views. Esteemed panel members comprised of Mr. Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor of Travel Impact Newswire; Mr. Luca Dotti, CEO & Founder of HOMA Phuket and lastly Mr. Pham Ha, CEO & Founder of Lux Group Vietnam shared their opinion during the forum. About 280 participants attended the forum virtually.
According UNWTO (January 2022 report), International arrivals in December 2021 were 65% below 2019 level. The panel members agreed that the full impact of the Omicron variant and surge in COVID-19 cases are yet to be seen. In ASEAN, the vaccination roll-out remains uneven among the countries. This development implies that tourism may reopen slowly in 2022 but there could be restrictions according to the countries. The panel speakers also expressed optimism that the industry has seen many events in the past and will bounce back stronger.
Contemporary issues such as lack of tourists’ confidence, lack of employees in the industry, closure of hotels, and resilience of tourism businesses and opportunities such as dynamic tourism products were the critical themes highlighted in this forum. The speakers generally stressed that the industry should strive to adapt to the changing nature of future travellers including the usage of technology towards a sustainable development.