Cambodia hosted the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2022 last month, which was held with a focus on regenerating the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) tourism industry after the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tanes Petsuwan, Deputy Governor for International Marketing – Asia and the South Pacific, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said Cambodia’s neighbour is at the forefront of ASEAN efforts as the region carefully opens up again to visitors.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Tanes Petsuwan. SUPPLIED

“Our aim in joining the ATF this year was to reconnect with our friends after a long break and share well wishes with them again. The ASEAN region is significant and shares a major contribution to international arrivals. The number of ASEAN arrivals to Thailand in 2020 totalled 1.65 million.

“One of the things that ASEAN countries should do to restore confidence in a challenging environment is ease intra-regional travel restrictions or set up a travel bubble, which can be on a bilateral or multilateral level.

“This would significantly help boost tourism and the economy in our region. Figures by Statista show that there were approximately 51.57 million tourists from ASEAN countries that travelled within the region in 2019. This can be considered a huge potential market that can help replace the share of Chinese as well as Europe and America markets.

“We would say the Phuket Sandbox model, which began on July 1 last year and allows travellers who are fully vaccinated to enter Thailand without quarantine, has successfully set itself as an example initiative for regional destinations to implement for reopening,” Tanes said.

Tanes said Thailand is constantly evolving its travel sector, providing new products and experiences.

“Our national agenda of the ‘Visit Thailand 2022’ and the new communication concept of ‘Amazing New Chapters’ of Thailand highlight an abundance of tourism products and experiences that travellers might have never explored.

“The Bio-Circular-Green – BCG – economic model incorporates concepts from the bio-economy, circular economy and green economy. It builds on Thailand’s strengths in biological diversity and cultural richness, and integrates the use of technology to enhance the product’s value to achieve sustainable growth.

“This not only helps distribute revenue to communities, but also resolves the overcapacity and deteriorating environment issues found in major destinations,” he said.

Thanes said that to revive the region’s travel industry in a pandemic world, it was imperative to address the considerations of tourists.

The Phuket Sandbox model – an ‘example initiative’ for the region – began on July 1 last year. SUPPLIED

“A key issue to focus on is truly understanding what tourists are concerned about regarding travelling in the Covid-19 era. In the travel new normal way, safety and hygiene are top priorities for many travellers.

“In Thailand, relevant agencies such as, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Ministry of Public Health, many other government agencies and the private sector joined hands to enhance Thailand as a safe and hygienic destination,” he said.

To this end, Thailand has introduced certification to give visitors peace of mind.

“TAT and the relevant parties have worked swiftly and thoroughly to issue the Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration – SHA – certificate, which is given to the tourism-related businesses – hotels, restaurants and tourists attractions – that meet all sanitisation standards.

“Moreover, we have ‘SHA Plus’ in the pilot destinations, which signifies that those businesses who are SHA certified have 70 per cent of their workforce fully vaccinated. This is to enhance tourists’ confidence while travelling in Thailand.

“Currently, most tourism-related businesses in the pilot destinations like Phuket, Samui, Krabi or Phang-Nga have received SHA Plus certification,” Tanes said.

With the world having suffered during the height of the pandemic, he said that Thailand’s reputation as top health and wellness destination means it is the ideal place to recharge and revitalise.

Thailand had a booth at last month’s ATF 2022 event held in Sihanoukville. Heng Chivoan

“Many people are now seeking to use their travel experience to rejuvenate their body, mind and even soul after an extremely difficult couple of years.

“Thailand is renowned for its health and wellness programmes – from organic spa therapies to traditional Thai massage, rejuvenation programmes and holistic treatments.

“We offer a wide range of standardised health and wellness facilities and world-class services, so we are looking forward to welcoming everybody again to enjoy such once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” Tanes said.

And the TAT deputy governor said that with all the measures taken, he was confident the travel sector will soon see a return to its pre-Covid highs.

“Despite the prolonged Covid-19 situation around the world, TAT is still optimistic about the future of the travel and tourism sector. Travel and tourism will remain a key part of enriching a person’s value and personal experience. So while it may take some time to recover, the travel and tourism sector will return to its pre-Covid glory once again.

“Indeed, being trapped during lockdowns has left many feeling the urge to go out and travel, where they can stay longer at a destination while exploring new places, trying out new activities and, for sure, this will come with safety and hygiene measures as priorities.

“I am always looking forward to reviving all those wonderful moments, and I would like to extend my sincere welcome to everybody once again in ‘Amazing Thailand’,” Tanes said.