ASEAN Tourism Research Association (ATRA), together with Taylor’s University, Malaysia and Prince of Songkla University, Thailand recently co-organized the 11th ATRA Tourism Forum entitled "The Future of Hospitality and Tourism Industry Post COVID Pandemic".
The Opening Remark was delivered by Prof. Dr. Neethiahnanthan Ari Ragavan, President of ATRA and Executive Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure Management, Taylor's University. Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Bruce Prideaux, Professor of Tourism, Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, Prince of Songkla University was the invited Keynote Speaker of the forum. This forum was hosted by Assistant Prof. Dr. Pornpisanu Promsivapallop, Vice President of ATRA and Dean, Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, Prince of Songkla University.
The session was moderated by Dr. Kristina Stosic, Assistant to the Dean of International Collaboration Development, Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, Prince of Songkla University. Key representatives from the Hospitality and Tourism sector in ASEAN were invited to share their views. The esteemed Panel Speakers comprised of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Devi Kausar, Dean, Faculty of Tourism, Universitas Pancasila; Assistant Prof. Dr. Chayanon Pucharoen, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, Prince of Songkla University; Mr. Rangsiman Kingkaew, Vice President of Phuket Tourism Council and Industry Specialist, Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, Prince of Songkla University and Dr. Puvaneswaran Kunasekaran, Senior Lecturer, Universiti Putra Malaysia shared their valuable insights during the forum. About 250 participants attended the forum in-person and virtually.
International tourism rebounded moderately during the second half of 2021, with international arrivals down 62% in both the third and fourth quarters compared to pre-pandemic levels. According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals were up by 172% in the January-July period over the same months in 2021 recouping 57% of pre-COVID levels. About 474 million people traveled internationally during these 7 months. Majority of them about 309 million or 65% traveled to Europe. Although this is a good development globally, the ASEAN region is not very active yet receiving international market. If compared with Europe, international travel is still slow in ASEAN.
Several contemporary issues influencing the arrivals were critically discussed by the Panel Speakers. The economic downturn, sanctions on Russia, and China's "Zero-COVID" strategy were found to be delaying the recovery process. These global circumstances are interconnected and should be interpreted holistically. The ultimate impact is towards the low travel confidence among the people. The Panel Speakers perceive that China's "Zero COVID" policy and persistent lockdowns have disrupted global trade and domestic & international travel. In this region, tourism industry is heavily dependent on China’s market. Apart from that, climate change is a big concern and tourism industry is the first one to take the hit.
In addition, lack of employees in the industry, closure of hotels, and resilience of tourism businesses and opportunities such as dynamic tourism products were the critical themes highlighted in this forum. The speakers generally stressed that the industry should strive to a balanced development in the process of restarting their business and this can result in business resiliency.