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ASEAN Tourism Forum 2019 Highlights

Witerary by Jojie Alcantara (published for SunStar Davao)

The 38th ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF 2019) which took place from January 16 to 18, 2019 in the picturesque city of Ha Long successfully ended with impressive developments, showing a stronger force in the appeal and charm of Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) destinations.

Host destination Vietnam (traditionally called Viet Nam) is proud to spotlight more than 70 of its best travel industry players in this year’s exhibition. Ha Long City is the capital of Quang Ninh Province and the gateway to world renowned Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

ATF 2019 theme ASEAN: The Power of One © Jojie Alcantara
ATF 2019 theme ASEAN: The Power of One © Jojie Alcantara

With the theme ASEAN: The Power of One, more than 1,500 delegates participated in over 100 meetings, business, education and social functions during a week-long event that also highlighted the 3-day TRAVEX, a prestigious annual leisure travel trade mart component of ATF.

ATF 2019 Opening Ceremony © Jojie Alcantara
ATF 2019 Opening Ceremony © Jojie Alcantara
ATF 2019 Opening Ceremony © Jojie Alcantara
ATF 2019 Opening Ceremony © Jojie Alcantara

TRAVEX delegates —including tourism ministers, leaders of national tourism agencies, international organizations, and buyers— convened daily at Quang Ninh Exhibition of Planning and Expo Center (QNEPEC), which offered the largest showcase of ASEAN destination products and services. ATF 2019 drew the interest of global buyers from 53 countries while more than 140 international and local media representatives were in attendance to cover the latest regional travel developments through the NTO media briefings by all 10 member states.

ATF 2019 Opening Ceremony © Jojie Alcantara
ATF 2019 Opening Ceremony © Jojie Alcantara

A total of 400 delegates were hosted to this year’s event, including me and my colleague Ian Garcia of Mindanao Times, as Philippine media delegates. We stayed in the elegant Royal Lotus Halong Hotel for four days.

Royal Lotus Halong Hotel © Jojie Alcantara
View from the Sky Bar of Royal Lotus Halong Hotel where I am staying
View from the Sky Bar of Royal Lotus Halong Hotel where I am staying

ATF promotes the ASEAN region as one tourist destination, with all the tourist industry sectors of the 10 member nations represented by top travel and tourism suppliers – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

Ha Long FLC Resort © Jojie Alcantara
Ha Long FLC Resort © Jojie Alcantara

The Philippine contingent secured an impressive 270 sqm. booth to showcase local destinations, attractions, and special interest programs, with a number of leading Philippine companies in the airline, hospitality, and tour operations sector which participated.

Philippine booth in TRAVEX © Jojie Alcantara
Philippine booth in TRAVEX © Jojie Alcantara

Reinforcing the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) thrust of promoting the country as a responsible and sustainable tourism destination, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) focused on green destinations to attract high-spending tourists by offering community-based products.

Philippine briefing with the international media
Philippine briefing with the international media

Part of TPB’s efforts is also strengthening the presence of the Philippines in international travel conferences and conventions. TPB Chief Operating Officer Marie Venus Tan said it is “imperative for the TPB to take part in the ATF to generate top-of-mind recall of the Philippines’ branding, ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ in line with invigorated efforts to promote it as an ideal tourist destination.”

Jojie with Sallome Yvonne Ian and Edmund
Me with Sallome, Yvonne, Ian and Edmund
Jojie with Ian and Salome Villaflor
Bonding with Ian Garcia andSalome Villaflor who is now General Manager of Halong Paradise Suites.

While the ATF experience comprised of complimentary pre-show tours generously prepared for delegates (Ha Long Bay cruises, Lan Ha Bay-Hai Phong City, and trips to Yen Tu Mountain and Ninh), other major events were the Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City Night dinner party for international media on board the Ha Long Princess Cruise, the Opening Ceremony and Welcome Reception & Dinner by VNAT for all delegates, the Friendly Golf Game, TRAVEX lunch and dinner hosted by Quang Ninh and FLC Resort, Brunei Night Reception and Philippines Late Night Function, and the Closing Ceremony of Visit Viet Nam Year 2018 & Gala Celebrating the Success of ATF 2019 for all delegates.

The after dinner party hosted by the Philippines was much talked about for its fun performances and all night dancing by the delegates.

Philippines Late Night Functio was an after dinner party hosted by the Philippines and was much talked about for its fun performances and all night dancing by the delegates. © Jojie Alcantara
Philippines Late Night Functio was an after dinner party hosted by the Philippines and was much talked about for its fun performances and all night dancing by the delegates. © Jojie Alcantara

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam, H.E. Nguyen Ngoc Thien, expressed his gratitude and that “the people of Quang Ninh province are honored to host ATF and invite all delegates to experience the natural beauty, warm people and endless adventures in Ha Long Bay.

FLC Ha Long Bay Resort © Jojie Alcantara
FLC Ha Long Bay Resort © Jojie Alcantara

“ATF is a platform for all ASEAN Member States to build a stronger and more powerful position in the world stage with meaningful initiatives that boost tourism growth while preserving our unique and collective heritage, identity and culture for the next generation to experience.”

Fellow Pinoy delegates and hotel officers Yvonne, Cristine, Jennifer and media colleague Ian
Fellow Pinoy delegates and hotel officers Yvonne, Cristine, Jennifer and media colleague Ian

ATF 2019’s panel of partners and sponsors include Official Air Carrier – Vietnam Airlines, Official Meetings Venue – FLC Group, Official Communications Partner – SCTV, Official Tour Operator – Saigontourist, Official Show Daily – TTG Show Daily, and Official Sponsors – BBC, Bia Ha Noi, Bien Hoa Beverages, CNN, Hanoitourist, Heritage Line, Ho Chi Minh City, Muong Thanh Group, Nguyen Le, Quang Ninh, Sun World, Thai Tuan, Thien Minh and VNPT.

Meanwhile, Brunei gears itself for ATF 2020 as it prepares to showcase its offerings and the changes that have taken place in the decade since it last hosted ATF in 2010. For more information, visit www.atfvietnam2019.com.

Special thanks to partners who have supported me in my trip: PLDT Home for my Fibr connection here at home enabling me quick access to my cloud files anywhere as well as communication matters; Printlife Official for my printed cards, AromacologySensi Philippines, Bioskin and MX3 for the proudly Davao products I gave away to fellow delegates. Lastly, here’s to the fun company of our former media colleague Salome Villaflor who is now General Manager of Halong Paradise Suites.

This article was published in SunStar Davao on January 22, 2019 entitled “Hallo, Halong!” and posted on its news website.

Published in SunStar Davao on February 19, 2019 © Jojie Alcantara

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Filed under: Announcements, Travel

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The author is a multi-awarded photographer, journalist, and artist whose works are featured in tourism campaigns (It's More Fun in the Philippines), covers and spreads of books and international magazines. A long time columnist of SunStar Davao, she is a frequent traveler in search of inspirational heartwarming stories of human interest. She is also an  influencer and motivational speaker who gives photography workshops in universities and organizations. A former TV personality, she has done several print and TV commercials, event hosting and speaking engagements. In 2013, she has received an award from the City Government of Davao for her significant contribution in the social media. She was one of the speakers in Photo World Asia 2017.  A web designer/blogger since the 90s, she has seen the evolution of the internet and social media transition from the perspective of a traditional media person.

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