Philippines, the host of the 35th ASEAN Tourism Forum ATF 2016 in Manila, pulled out all the stops to make an impression on its 2,620 delegates comprising of ministerial and NTO delegates, as well as TRAVEX suppliers from across ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), international buyers and media. 

ATF TRAVEX featured a large and diverse collection of ASEAN suppliers, connecting in the region of 1,000 exhibitors with 457 buyers from around the world, alongside 175 international and local media. The 3-day event running from 20-22 January incorporated close to 70 official sessions with the host country setting the bar high on several fronts – from the participation of 175 local exhibitors from across the Philippines, to a generous line-up of social activities including the Pre-Show City Tours, Opening Ceremony, Welcome Reception and Dinner, and Farewell Party for all ATF delegates, as well as other cocktail and exclusive dinner functions. The Philippines certainly lived up to their slogan ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ with its wonderful Filipino hospitality, world-class infrastructure, facilities and services.

The ATF is a co-operative initiative between the South-east Asian Nations to promote the ASEAN region as a single tourist destination. Member nations are: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Of specific interest to Responsible Traveller was the focus of many of these nations on community based tourism as well as responsible tourism.

This culminated with the ASEAN Green Hotel Award and the ASEAN Homestay Award held at the Sofitel. Both these awards celebrate and recognise tourism business operators in the region who have contributed to the development and promotion of sustainable operations and local community involvement – in effect ‘fostering a tourism industry that includes local communities in its growth and progress, especially in rural areas’.

A highlight for a number of international buyers and media was the opportunity of booking one of the Philippine Host Committee’s and heritage tours, to islands hopping and highlands visits, proving that there is a Philippine destination to suit every taste. The list of tours offered included Ilocos: UNESCO World Heritage Tour; Cordillera Heritage Tour, Southern Luzon’s Heritage, Wellness, Culinary Trail; El Nido; Palawan: The Last Frontier; Northern Palawan’s Eco Adventure; Bicol Express; The Visayan Charms; Negros Y Cebu and Islands to Highlands.

“Visit Philippines Year (VPY) 2015 was truly a huge success. This year, with Visit the Philippines Again (VPA) 2016, we are confident that it will be another spectacular year for the tourism industry, not just with the help of the government and private sector, but also with the heart of the Filipino people. With the Filipinos as our most important asset, VPA 2016 will surely captivate tourists even more as they return this year. We believe that this year’s host committee has created ample opportunities for delegates to experience the appeal of The Philippines.” said Susan del Mundo, Chairperson of ATF 2016 TRAVEX Sub-Committee.

True to ATF’s objectives of promoting the 10 ASEAN regions as a single destination, the spotlight at this year’s event was not only on the Philippines. Other ASEAN NTOs displayed huge support and involvement in enhancing the 2016 ATF TRAVEX programme. In addition to their own showcase on the exhibition floor, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia shared their own destination’s appeal and hospitality, while evidencing ASEAN’s strength of diversified experiences amidst a unified community during hosted lunches, late night functions and cocktail bashes.

The beauty of Southeast Asia most certainly lies in its warm and hospitable people, diverse culture, language and religion, its architecture, cuisine and geography – a blend of ancient and modern, where old centuries meet the 21st century. ASEAN captivates every spectrum of today’s traveller – from adventure seekers, backpackers, businessmen, families to photography enthusiasts, those seeking sun, sand and sea, luxury and wellness as well as trekkers and wildlife enthusiasts.

The message from ATF2016 is that whether for business or for pleasure, Southeast Asia wants to continue maintaining a high level of tourist satisfaction, ensuring a meaningful experience to its tourists while raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.

For info on next year’s event –