Bangkok | Onwards to a Brighter and Broader ASEAN – INDIA Tourism and Trade Partnership

Celebrating a fruitful 25 years of strengthened relations between the member nations of ASEAN and INDIA, the leading tourism and trade figures from the participating countries converged in Bangkok for the ASEAN - India Expo and Forum held last August 3-5, 2017 at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. The 2-day event was driven by the model of “Strategic Economic Partnership & Connectivity”, where a string of productive discussions emerged from a series of panel talks, round table discussions forums, expert lectures and young entrepreneurs networking activities. A trade exposition showcasing the local products and brands from the participating countries also became a major draw and attracted a large crowd. 

Ministers from ASEAN countries and INDIA does the famous world-leaders handshake

Aiming to bridge the gap, stimulate and widen the opportunities available in tourism, trade and investments between the partaking nations – which according to recent figures, amount to a little more than 2 billion of the world’s population – the ASEAN – India Expo and Forum successfully highlighted the importance of tapping into this huge market that can infuse positive influences into the various facets of; politics, economy, culture and society of the ASEAN region and India.

ASEAN-India as One Tourism Destination

One of the many interesting round table discussions happened during the forum participated by the Tourism Ministers of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as they were joined by a couple of leading figures in the travel industry.

Thailand's Minister for Tourism Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul leads the tourism forum
The group discussed ways of promoting ASEAN tourism to India and vice-versa citing the romantic locales of the fine beaches of the region especially those found in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, the cultural and historic landmarks in Cambodia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos as well as the colorful culture, magical vibe and spiritual spectacle dominating the various sights of India.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha delivers the opening remarks
They also agreed that a more open-skies policy and a tourism campaign focusing on promoting and fusing the ASEAN and Indian region as  one tourism destination should become one of the main goals of each country’s tourism campaigns.

"An increased tourism between India and ASEAN will increase investments and also help foster a stronger relationships between both regions" Mrs Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Thailand Minister of Tourism said.

Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha also stated in his opening keynote speech; "the development of association in terms of land, water and air transportation and logistics between India and ASEAN will be important factors" in the expansion of tourism, trade and investments between the two regions.

Removing ASEAN – India Trade Barriers

India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivered a stirring keynote speech at the opening of the expo, where she stressed the need to remove existing trade obstacles between India and the ASEAN region.

Cultural performers opened the 2-day summit
“Barriers that impede trade must be removed besides enhanced utilization of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA),” among she stated to be tackled upon by the member states includes; a wider open skies policy, facilitating of customs procedure and the introduction of more non-tariff processes that would fasten the movement of goods, services and even tourists between the partner countries.

“ASEAN presents considerable opportunities for development and trade. The trade between India and ASEAN is increased to $71.69 billion in 2016-17 from $30.09 billion in 2007-08,” Sitharaman adds.

Still part of his opening speech; Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha led the call to widen the ‘corridors of connectivity’ and expand ‘corridors of trade’.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said, “South East Asia and India are part of the world's important economic mechanism. If we work together in synergy, we will gain bargaining power and become a major market with an immense power to drive the economy forward. This can lead to major economic and social changes.”

Cultural Exchange and Product Exhibitions

Attendees of the ASEAN – India Expo and Forum were also treated to a wide array of cultural performances which featured traditional dances from Thailand and other ASEAN countries as well as a dazzling display of Filipino Martial Arts. The vast ground of Queen Sirikit National Convention Center’s Hall C became the location of an exposition that encompasses more than 250 booths showcasing various tourist attractions, native products and services from the 10-member states of ASEAN and India. 

One of the many booths showcasing local cultures and products. This one was from Laos
Occupying a big space in the next hall; the Philippines proudly exhibited the country’s Department of Trade and Industry’s “Slingshot” project – a program that aims to support digital entrepreneurs and other start-up companies expected to play a major role in driving the country’s economy in the future. A separate convention called the SLINGSHOT: ASEAN Startup and Innovation Summit will be held at the Philippine International Convention Center on October 19-20, 2017.

Collectively, the ASEAN – India Expo and Forum – as a fitting celebration to the 25th year of the foundation of India and ASEAN relations - opened several insightful avenues for leading tourism and trade personalities to discover and converse about the wide-ranging possibilities of an expanded link and exchanges of best practices ideas in the field of tourism, trade, investment and culture between the two regions. Playing home to almost a fourth of the world’s population, there is nowhere else to go for India and the ASEAN nations but to move forward into a brighter future. 

This article appeared in the September 10, 2017 issue of BusinessMirror