Mon, 17 Mar 2003

ASEAN intensifies efforts to boost tourism: Minister

Wahyoe Boediwardhana and Dadan Wijaksana, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua, Bali

ASEAN tourism ministers have pledged to improve security in the region, as part of attempts to revive the image of the tourist industry -- badly tainted by the horrific terrorist bomb attacks on Bali last year.

An intensified effort to improve security is a prerequisite to generate confidence among visiting tourists so they feel safe and well-protected during their stays, Indonesia's Minister for Cultural and Tourism I Gede Ardika said here over the weekend.

Ardika went on to say that ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), plus Japan, China and South Korea had all agreed to issue a joint statement on the matter, which is expected to help ensure sustainability in the tourism industry throughout the region.

One of the issues at the top of the agenda during the weekend gathering, according to Ardika, was improving law enforcement across ASEAN countries.

"This is a reflection that ASEAN serves as one area. So we're not just guarding our own turf," he said, adding that the deal was a follow up from an earlier meeting in Phnom Phen in January.

He was speaking to reporters after the completion of a meeting called the ASEAN-China, Japan and Korea Tourism Ministers Retreat held in Nusa Dua, Bali.

The tourism sector in the region, which has been one of the main sources of foreign exchange income, was the hardest hit following the Oct. 12 Bali bomb blasts, which killed more than 200 people, mostly tourists.

Efforts to revive the industry have been intensified ever since, not just in Indonesia, but also in the region, which has also felt the pinch of the attacks.

Elsewhere, Ardika said that the region's ministers had agreed on certain schemes to promote tourism in ASEAN. He pointed out as an example, a plan to issue the so-called ASEAN Air Pass for tourists wishing to visit an ASEAN country.

"For instance, a tourist paying a visit to Indonesia, will also be entitled to two optional tickets, with discounted prices, heading for two other ASEAN countries," Ardika said.

"The prices offered will be special, far below the normal prices."