New virtual travel exchange platform to boost business opportunities for ASEAN tourism players

THE Asia Pacific region was the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic with international visitor spending falling by 74.4% as many countries across the region closed their borders to inbound tourists, while domestic spending witnessed a sharp decline of 48.1%, according to the WTTC 2021 Economic Trends report.

Travel and tourism employment in the region fell by 18.4% or equating to a “shocking” 34.1 million jobs, with the sector’s contribution to GDP dropping 53.7%, compared to the global fall of 49.1%, added the report.

This unprecedented disruption upon the travel and tourism sector, plus continuing travel restrictions, has driven ASEAN (Association of South-east Asian Nations) to re-strategise, turning to digital technologies to amplify business opportunities and reach new markets.

The ASEAN Tourism Association (ASEANTA), comprising the region’s public and private tourism sector organisations, has roped in Malaysia-based big data and artificial intelligence company Fusionex to launch ASEANTA Travel Exchange (ATEX), a virtual exhibition and engagement platform for the region’s tourism sector.

ASEANTA’s Eddy Krismeidi Soemawilaga (left) with Fusionex Group’s Ivan Teh at ATEX’s virtual signing ceremony.

Set to go live in Q4 this year, ATEX “will help to connect and collaborate with regional and global players in a bid to enhance market reach and to add business opportunities,” said Ivan Teh, Fusionex Group founder and group CEO, at the virtual signing ceremony with ASEANTA last week.

Powered by Fusionex technologies, the
platform offers an
intelligent B2B matchmaking feature that connects local enterprises with global
businesses, expanding market reach. Travel and tourism players can also
leverage its global distribution system to conduct secure and uninterrupted
business transactions, he added.

In addition, businesses can showcase their offerings via virtual booths, facilitate pitching sessions through livestreaming, provide real-time reporting capabilities as well as performance monitoring and measurement features. It also allows enterprises to capitalise on AI-powered digital marketing tools to tailor personalised campaigns.

“As Covid-19 has brought the travel and
tourism sector to a halt, ASEANTA has demonstrated its dedication to the
industry by embracing digitalisation to bring new avenues of progress to pave
the way for the future of travel, hospitality and tourism,” said Teh

Eddy Krismeidi Soemawilaga, president of ASEANTA, described the collaboration as a “milestone” as the  combined resources of ASEAN member states will “take tourism in the region to new levels and to firmly establish ASEAN as one of the most viable and attractive tourism destinations in the world.”

He added the B2B market platform, designed specifically for the travel and tourism operators in the 10 ASEAN member countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam), is a positive development within the region to support the recovery of the industry. It is also a venue for sellers to promote their destinations and products to key source markets.

“I’m confident there will be more than 18,000 travel and tourism related industries that could be reached by this platform.”

A video presentation at the event showed ATEX expects to host more than 300 exhibitors, 900 live steam pitches and 27,000 business matching opportunities.

ATEX is to go live in first quarter of this year.

Soemawilaga said to attract buyers to the first ATEX slated for Q4 2022, ASEANTA will tap into its partner network in key source markets including China, Japan, South Korea, the Middle East and Europe.

He stressed that ATEX would not replace the annual ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) – a cooperative regional effort hosted by each country in turn to promote the region as one tourist destination – but instead will complement it.

He explained that the plan is for ATEX to be held online on a quarterly basis, with the first scheduled for Q4 possibly in November. Like ATF, ASEANTA will approach a host country to hold the virtual event, rotating between each ASEAN country. He expects to see four countries hosting ATEX in 2022 as borders gradually reopen. When the circumstances permit he did not rule out the possibilty of the platform evolving into a physical format.

Nigel Wong, ASEANTA’s secretary-general, added apart from complementing Travex (Travel Exchange), the B2B component of ATF, ATEX is also to enable industry players “to be more nimble, to respond to the ever changing trends in situations caused by this current pandemic.”

Cambodia will host the 2022 ATF and Travex in Sihanoukville from January 16 to 22. It was originally scheduled for January 17 to 23 , 2021 in Phnom Penh but was postponed due to Covid.

Thong Rathasak, chairman of ASEAN National Tourism Organisations and director general for tourism development and international cooperation at Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism, said ATF 2022 might take on a hybrid format with a small-scale physical exhibition held outdoors, while sellers and buyers will attend virtually.

Images credit: ASEANTA