In a most interesting keynote address the former Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, called on the ASEAN tourism industry to pay equal attention to the socio-cultural pillar of ASEAN integration, and not just over-focus on its economic impact.
Dr Surin delivered the keynote speech on the subject of ‘ASEAN Brand – Stronger Together’ at the Thailand Travel Mart Plus Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Subregion 2016 (TTM+ 2016), which took place at the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre (CMECC).
He noted that ASEAN’s 10 member countries were a “tapestry of contrasts” comprising the largest Muslim country (Indonesia), the largest Catholic country (the Philippines) and the four contiguous Buddhist countries (Thailand, Myanmar, Lao PDR and Cambodia). He also pointed out that 95% of Chinese people do not have a passport.
Because it is this diversity that makes ASEAN such an attractive destination, he said the regional travel and tourism industry should pay equal attention to the socio-cultural and political-security blueprints of ASEAN, “not just economic, economic, economic all the time”.
Although economic issues dominate the trade and investment agendas, Dr Surin said most people forget that ASEAN integration comprises three pillars.
The fundamental foundation of 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’.”