By Peter Lynch, In Singapore
Singapore Prime Minister Lee tonight backed the Southeast Asian cruise industry as a major growth area in tourism for the ASEAN region.
Opening the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2017, Mr Lee singled out cruise for special mention as an important part of the region’s commitment to ten per cent tourism growth this year.
Air travel and developing tourism talent were two other important factors, he said.
“We should build up cruise tourism, which has immense potential,” he told a dinner to launch the ASEAN Tourism Forum and its ASEAN@50 Golden Celebration 2017 campaign.
“This is growing in popularity in our nation and in Australia. And ASEAN is well placed to promote cruise tourism.
“We have archipelagos in ASEAN to rival the Aegean, Caribbean or the South Pacific. We have year round tropical weather and calm waters. We have diverse and attractive destinations within a short sailing distance.
“But developing cruise tourism is a multi-lateral effort. We need to develop port infrastructure to receive newer and bigger ships; we need to work with cruise providers to create attractive alternative itineraries with multiple stops for tourists.”
Singapore leads the ASEAN Cruise Development Initiative as coordinator. And Mr Lee mentioned the Cruise Dialogue discussions taking place on Thursday as important to overcoming key roadblocks to the growth of cruise like the development of infrastructure and training.
Mr Lee said Southeast Asia’s burgeoning middle class was a great opportunity.
He was launching Visit ASEAN@50, a campaign, designed to encourage tourism growth in the region in this, and ASEAN’s 50th year.
Cruise is a major part of the campaign, with new itineraries featuring in a list of 50 special travel experiences on offer to celebrate ASEAN’s birthday.
The endorsement of Mr Lee will be a big benefit to cruise industry officials like those inside Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and individual cruise lines, who are working behind the scenes to build up destinations and ports capable of handing large modern vessels.
Royal Caribbean, for instance, helped Vietnam develop port facilities with a $5 million grant. Similar initiatives are being sought.
Earlier, Oliver Chong, Executive directory of communications and marketing capability at Singapore Tourism Board also made mention of the importance of the cruise industry to Singapore’s growth.
A Cruise Development Fund has been established to defray the costs of initiatives to help kick start cruise projects and aid lobbying for important port and other amenity projects.
A travel agent road map is intended to take agents beyond “order takers” and into the realm of “designers of travel experiences”.
Mr Chong spoke of a cruise partnership agreement with Indonesia, and made mention of Singapore’s enormous success in attracting the Indian market.
Responding to questions from ASEAN Cruise News, Mr Chong said: “The thing about cruise is that it is not something we can do ourselves. We are working with our neighbours though the ASEAN Tourism Forum platform to open up areas where we can open up areas which would be for the betterment of the cruise industry.”
He said that the more areas cruise ships could go to, the better for Singapore’s cruise industry.
Later, Thailand’s tourism governor Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn said his country was looking to raise tourism revenue by 10 per cent, and he said cruise was an area the country wanted to focus on.
Responding to a question from ASEAN Cruise News, Mr Supasorn said: “Thailand has sponsored the Thailand roadshow seven times and we plan to work with the private sector to support them to invest more in cruise”.
He said a mega-ship terminal was a project for the new eastern corridor of Thailand. Phuket would be a focus to create the infrastructure for larger ships, he said.
Thailand will host the ASEAN Tourism Event next year. See www.ATFthailand2018.com