An article by Curtis S. Chin,  The Straits Times.

IN THE march towards an Asean Community in 2015, South-east Asian governments and national tourism organisations are hoping to build on the recent double-digit growth in traveller numbers.

Asean tourism ministers are also seeking to create a greater sense of community among Asean’s 10 disparate member states to complement increasingly ubiquitous country-branding efforts, ranging from “Amazing Thailand” to “Wonderful Indonesia”.

Asean governments, however, need to do more than talk. They must work to maintain and improve the very destinations that they seek to promote, and better assist the people they seek to help. Governments also must move beyond visitor numbers and instead pursue more meaningful, though admittedly, more difficult measures to gauge the success of tourism investments and campaigns.

This could include tracking local job creation and environmental impacts, as well as gauging how much of the tourist dollar actually stays in the country and in local communities. Money spent on tourism marketing campaigns – no matter how sophisticated or creative – must also be complemented by on-the-ground investment in communities and capacity building if they are to be sustainable.

Photo: Courtesy of Curtis S. Chin

While Asean nations are looking to boost tourism by moving towards an Asean Community next year, some pertinent issues need to be tackled first, one of which is ensuring that notable travel destinations, such as Kuta beach (above) in Bali, are kept in pristine condition.

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