China hot topic as important tourism market at ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Indonesia
More than 1,400 delegates descended on Manado, North Sulawesi on 10-15 January to participate in the 31st ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), which featured the ASEAN Tourism Conference (ATC), Travel Exchange (TRAVEX), 35th ASEAN National Tourism Organization (NTO) Meeting, and Ministerial Meeting. The annual ATF is a cooperative regional effort aimed at promoting member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as one tourist destination. The event involves all tourism industry sectors in the 10 ASEAN nations: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. ATF kicked off in earnest on 13 January with the ATC component under the theme “ASEAN Goes Green”, during which industry leaders shared the latest information and insights on the region’s ongoing efforts towards sustainable and eco-conscious tourism. The three-day ATF 2012 TRAVEX also opened on 13 January at the newly constructed Golden Kawanua Exhibition Hall, and featured B2B sessions between some 1,000 exhibitors and 390 buyers from 51 countries – including four new participants from Bulgaria, Egypt, Kuwait and New Zealand – to negotiate contracts to attract more tourists to ASEAN’s destinations. Host country Indonesia and Thailand formed the largest national contingents with 112 and 92 exhibition booths respectively. Corporate exhibitors participated with around 65 exhibition booths. China, India, Russia, Japan, and South Korea also joined the forum, under the theme “Tourism for a Global Community of Nations”. Asia Pacific accounted for 48 per cent of the buyers, while 37.6 per cent represented Europe. More than 100 media representatives from 36 countries, including first-time participants from Bahrain and Indonesia, were on hand for TRAVEX.
All 10 ASEAN NTOs presented media briefings. All of the ten ASEAN countries recognize China as one of their key source markets. Huge increases in Chinese tourists have been noticed, and further increases are projected. China has already overtaken Japan as the biggest tourism source market in Asia, the UNWTO projects that China will have more than 100 million outbound tourist by 2020, and will be the largest tourism market in the world. Recognizing that according to the China Tourism Academy, part of CNTA, in 2011, there were 70 million outbound tourists, the UNWTO projection might even be achieved earlier. Currently, most of the Chinese tourists travel to ASEAN countries by joining traditional tour groups. These tour groups offer benefits, especially for first-time or older travelers, where price, convenience, and safety play a big role. However, more and more repeat travelers, or younger travelers (Chinese affluent consumers are 20 years younger compared to the US and Europe) prefer to be able to experience destinations their way, by staying in the hotels they chose instead of being in hotels that are chosen by the tour operator, many times based on prize and margin or other non-consumer centric factors, but won’t fit their taste and newly aspired lifestyles. Also, being on sight-seeing bus tours, forced to take pictures, eat at restaurants, or buy souvenirs, dictated to them, does not fit into the ideas of the new Chinese tourist.