ASEAN Tourism Research Association (ATRA), together with Taylor's University, Malaysia and Centre of Research and Innovation in Tourism, recently co-organized the 8th ATRA Tourism Forum entitled “Future Tourism in ASEAN: Challenges and Opportunities”. The webinar consisted of an excellent mixture of people from academia and industry. The keynote was delivered by Prof. Dr. Neethiahnanthan Ari Ragavan, Executive Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure Management and President of ATRA. The session was moderated by Dr. Puvaneswaran Kunasekaran, Senior Lecturer from Taylor’s University, School of Hospitality, Tourism and Events and Honorary Treasurer, ASEAN Tourism Research Association (ATRA) and hosted by Dr. Jenny H. Panchal from James Cook University & Deputy Secretary of ATRA.
Key representatives from the Hospitality and Tourism sectors were invited to share their views. Esteemed panel members comprised of Mr. Eddy Krismeidi Soemawiaga, Deputy President of ASEANTA; Prof. Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee, Professor from Taylor’s University and Secretary-General of ATRA; Ms. Hannah Pearson, Founding Partner of Pear Anderson and Co-host at The South East Asia Travel Show and Mr. Gary Bowerman, Director of Check-In Asia and Co-host at The South East Asia Travel Show.
According to UNWTO, it will take three years for the industry to reach its level in 2019, and it still depends on how good the vaccine mobilization will be. Nonetheless, domestic tourism, digital tourism, and intraregional travel offer the industry a way out of the slump and gradually recoup its losses while waiting for the vaccines to work and for pre-COVID normalcy to return. Recovery of tourism and future sustainable development for countries is only possible with proactive policies in place. This forum explored the readiness to face ASEAN's potential challenges and opportunities in the post-vaccination period to make tourism resilient.
Challenges such as lack of tourists’ confidence, loss of jobs, closure of hotels, and resilience of tourism businesses and opportunities such as dynamic tourism products, vaccine visa or health passport, travel bubble and domestic tourism shift 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 travelers. Apart from that, the empowerment of travel agencies is emphasized to generate immediate income for industry survival.