By Jojie Alcantara
February 20, 2011
ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2011 launched its opening ceremony in Cambodia (dubbed Kingdom of Wonder), and was hosted by the Ministry of Cambodia on January 18 at the Diamond Island Convention and Exhibition Centre in Phnom Penh. The week long event welcomed over 1,600 heads of National Tourist Organizations (NTOs), Tourism Ministers, travel suppliers, international buyers, media and other tourism professionals from around the world.
After welcoming speeches by Kingdom of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Samdech Akka Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Dr. Sok An, (Minister in Charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers and Chairman of the Organizing Committee for ATF 2011) and H.E. Mr. Thong Khon (Minister of Tourism, and Permanent Vice-Chairman of ATF 2011 Organizing Committee), delegates were treated to a 30-minute spectacular fireworks display, and a fascinating cultural extravaganza of 500 performers amidst pyrotechnics, set in an open area by the riverside. A stunning sunset and full moon enhanced the wonderful scene.
Occupying a huge exhibition area of 8,430 sqm, the ATF TRAVEX – a three-day travel trade-only exhibition and business meetings platform – featured 518 booths from 434 exhibiting companies of 10 ASEAN countries. International buyers with a keen interest to buy destinations, products and services were ready to do business and source at this annual leisure travel trade event, showcasing the largest contingent of ASEAN sellers, from small to large suppliers.
Philippine Secretary of Tourism Alberto Lim was among several delegates of Filipinos who attended, including travel agents and resort operators. We bonded together over hosted lunch, dinners, and at the Travex exhibition booth. The Philippine media comprised of my colleague Ian Garcia (M Magazine and Mindanao Times) and I, who travelled along with DOT XI Regional Director Art Boncato.
ATF 2011 became a widely publicized event by both trade and consumer media, with 148 media delegates from across 32 countries in attendance. We received first-hand information on the latest updates and developments taking place across 10 ASEAN destinations through dedicated media briefings, showcasing travel attractions.
Exciting networking opportunities were offered to buyers and hosted media delegates through pre-event city tours of Phnom Penh, highlighting the city’s wonderful attractions which include The Royal Palace, National Museum of Cambodia, Tuol Sleng Museum (S-21 Prison), Toul Tum Poung Market, Phsar Thmey (Central Market) and Wat Phnom Daun Penh. Post event tours were also given at a discounted rate to Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, home to the ancient Angkor Wat.
Delegates were treated to a wide range of networking activities over the next few days, including friendly golf, hosted luncheons and dinners by Cambodia Angkor Air, Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia, Bangkok Airways, Tourism Malaysia and Ministry of Tourism. Late night functions at Raffles Hotel Le Royal and Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra gave them a chance to relax and party after a hectic day.
A cooperative regional effort to promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as one tourist destination, ATF is an annual event involving the tourism industry sectors of 10 member nations of ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Each year, the hosting of ATF is rotated among the member countries. ATF 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of this event since its inauguration in Malaysia in 1981. This year’s theme was “ASEAN, A World of Wonders and Diversity”. ASEAN Tourism Forum 2011 with the ATF TRAVEX (Jan. 19-21) was held from 15 to 21 January 2011 at Diamond Island Convention and Exhibition Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Manado, Indonesia is now preparing to host ATF 2012.
Special thanks to the following who made my trip fun in more ways than one: Cebu Pacific Air (Davao–Manila-Saigon connecting flight), DOT XI and Director Art Boncato, Nino Carandang and Western Digital (all my precious 20gb worth of images throughout the trip stored in my new 1Tb passport!), NCCC, Mayor Sara Duterte, Mayor Michelle Rabat of Mati, and Miss Gina Espejo for the MX3 capsules which I regularly take to energize me after the long haul.