SIHANOUKVILLE, Jan. 20, 2022: The ASEAN Tourism Forum’s Travex trade show opened on Wednesday with officials claiming an attendance of 350 delegates from 29 countries.
Far from the usual 1,000 spectators, the 40and edition issued a statement on the resilience of the region’s tourism industry in the face of the global Covid-19 pandemic. With the increase in Omicron infections in the 10 countries of the ASEAN community, there was a clear risk in attending an international trade event. Midway through the five-day event, officials confirmed no reports of Covid-19 cases, while travel industry executives said attendance at the show would restore confidence in travel regional.
Commenting on the health risks, General Manager of Anantara Angkor Resort, Chin Pitak said, “It’s a wait-and-see situation but (the Omicron variant) lasts much less than past outbreaks…we have a high rate of vaccinations in Cambodia, including the nationwide roll-out of the third dose…coverage is now only second after Singapore in Asia.
IMCT Events Manager Peter Tay, who runs projects for PATA Cambodia, called vendors at the Travex show “the hearts of a lion”, adding that the ATF was “a step towards the recovery of tourism in from 2022”.
Even traveling to Sihanoukville on the south coast of Cambodia presented challenges. Vendors from Medan Indonesia left their homes before dawn on January 16 to arrive at the site in Sihanoukville, Cambodia late in the evening of January 17. He illustrated the air connection problems faced by travelers in the ASEAN region made up of 10 countries, especially between secondary cities.
But media attention shifted from “lion hearts” to the arrival of Myanmar’s Minister of Hospitality and Tourism, Htay Aung, who was leading a small delegation on behalf of the country’s oppressive military junta. He was warmly welcomed by the Cambodian Minister of Tourism, Thong Thon.
Htay Aung praised Cambodia for taking steps to reopen tourism safely, saying the experience would be a model for Myanmar to restore its tourism industry.
By contrast, Myanmar is on the brink of civil war as the country’s military junta crushes street protests and opposition while ignoring ASEAN’s Five-Point Commitment policies to resolve the crisis. Back in Myanmar, travel industry employees, tour guides and entrepreneurs are imprisoned by the military without trial. Last December, travel officials in the region appealed to Htay Aung to intervene and demand the release of a popular tour guide, without success. There are very few fellow travelers from Myanmar participating in this year’s ATF. Their careers and businesses have been devastated since the February 1, 2021 military coup.
As Cambodia hosted the tourism minister appointed by the military junta at official ASEAN Tourism Forum government meetings, a Reuters report quoted Singapore’s prime minister as saying that the Association of Asian Nations Southeast Asia (ASEAN) should continue to exclude Myanmar’s junta from its meeting until it cooperates on agreed peace plans. . It could be years before Myanmar once again finds its way back to democracy and revives its struggling economy and tourism industry.