At the Thailand Travel Mart 2016 in Chang Mai, secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Dr Surin Pitsuwan delivered the keynote speech.
The ten ASEAN member countries were described as a “tapestry of contrasts” with a population of 622 million comprising of the largest Muslim country (Indonesia), the largest Catholic country (Philippines), the largest Hindu (Bali) and the four Buddhist countries (Thailand, Myanmar, Lao and Cambodia).
According to Dr Surin Pitsuwan not only does this diversity make ASEAN such an attractive destination for regional and international travel and tourism but also raises socio-cultural and political-security issues.
It was highlighted that the fundamental foundation of the ASEAN integrated community is the socio-cultural blueprint; “where people matter, where the exchange of people, the appreciation of both differences and commonalities are important, where we identify ourselves not just by our nationality but also as members of ASEAN as a second identity”.
The ASEAN community is growing and tourism is flourishing but Dr Surin finished with a note to the tourism industry not just to focus on doing business, but also to get involved in creating a better world for future generations.