The special ASEAN Tourism Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19 was held online on 29 April 2020 with the attendance of Ministers and Vice Ministers in charge of tourism of 10 ASEAN Member States and the Secretary General of ASEAN. H.E.Mr. Le Quang Tung - Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam coordinated the 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship participated and delivered a speech in the meeting.

The meeting was organized at the initiative of Cambodia-who took the role of Vice Chair of ASEAN Tourism Ministers’ Meeting 2020. It took place as the COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented and enormous impacts on global economy in general and tourism industry in particular. At the meeting, ASEAN countries wished to shared information and set out plans to mutually act to help tourism business and laborers to overcome the crisis caused by COVID-19. 

To this date, tourism is among the hardest impacted industries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has forecasted initially a 45% drop of international tourist arrivals in 2020. The figure could reach 70% if efforts for recovery have been delayed until June. World Travel and Tourism Council estimated that 75 millions of the industry’s laborers have been in danger of unemployment. ASEAN countries’ tourism has suffered devastating damages, both short-term and long-term. In the first quarter, Viet Nam received about 3.7 million international tourist arrivals and 13 million domestic travelers, a decrease of 18% and 48% respectively in comparison with the same period of 2019; tourism revenue estimated at $6.1 billion, decreasing 18% over the same quarter. About 90% hotels and 95% inbound companies have maintained minimal operations. Average room occupancy of the first quarter averaged about 20%; dropping to less than 10% in March and early April, recording a significant declined comparing to last year. The sluggish tourism operations have not only impacted the existence of businesses and seriously affected the employment and well-being of the laborers but also indirectly impacted other relevant industries and sectors as well as the sustainability of economic and social development of countries in the long term. Therefore, it’s essential that ASEAN Tourism Ministers have committed to mutually act to minimize damages caused by the crisis and map out an action plan to recover the tourism industry. 

At his speech, Vice Minister Le Quang Tung shared Viet Nam’s experience in combating COVID-19. The government has developed and implemented strategies and plans to fight COVID-19 comprehensively according to well-prepared responding scenarios in the same line with solutions to support vulnerable companies and people throughout the pandemic, including those in the tourism sector, such as: extending time for tax payment and rental fees for tourism businesses, hotels, restaurants, museums, amusement parks; electricity fees’ reduction for travel businesses and hotels; reduction or exemption from interests and fees; preferential loans for businesses; financial support for unemployed tourism laborers or those on unpaid leave etc. Till this date, Viet Nam has fundamentally controlled the pandemic and prevented it from spreading in the community while implemented “double duties” ensuring the safety and health of residents as well as production, business and social well-being. 

In the same time, the tourism industry will proceed its proposals to the government and proactive cooperate with some international partners to carry out solutions and recovery policies to tackle difficulties for businesses, support laborers as well as develop the tourism sector in the coming time, focusing on the following duties: recovering tourism related sectors namely aviation, transportation etc; implementing safety measures for tourists; applying digital transformation to boost the development of tourism; collaborating with other countries, especially with ASEAN Member States to build the tourism sector towards sustainability, as the circumstance requires. 

To conclude the Meeting, Ministers adopted the Joint Statement of the special ASEAN Tourism Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19. ASEAN Tourism Ministers committed to fostering ASEAN coordination in information exchange on travel-related health and other necessary measures undertaken by ASEAN Member States to control the spread of COVID-19 outbreak through intensifying activities of ASEAN Tourism Crisis Communication Team (ATCCT); strengthening the collaboration of ASEAN National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) with other relevant ASEAN sectors, especially in health, information, transportation as well as with outside partners of ASEAN to boost the comprehensive, transparent and timely response to mitigate and alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 and similar crises in the future; implementing innovative and creative measures to stimulate the tourism sector; developing and implementing post COVID-19 Recovery Plans including ASEAN’s mutual promotion programs, ASEAN tour packages promotion enhancement, ASEAN’s  human resources quality improvement and close cooperation among relevant parties in the industry to build a common Southeast Asia image for businesses and tourists./.

Nguyen Duc Thang

International Cooperation Department

Ministry of of Culture, Sports and Tourism

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