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Industry Briefs
10-In-1 Paradise
Matt Thomas

ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations)
is a vibrant, exotic tropical paradise that includes ten of Southeast Asia’s most exciting countries. Because each ASEAN member country has been shaped by cultures dating back to between the 13th and 15th centuries, a visit there combines a fusion of ancient and modern like few other places around the globe.\

The influence of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity on ASEAN countries are further affected by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, French and American influences – and in some cases a bit of each. ASEAN symbolizes unity in diversity and this is most evident in its dynamic population.

Although the people of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are as diverse as the countries they represent, they all seem to share one common bound – friendliness. In Thailand, for example, citizens still leave containers of water on their doorsteps for thirsty walkers that happen to pass by.

The region offers a variety of experiences that would appeal to the most discerning traveler. The laid-back, rustic life of villagers and hill tribes where time seems to have stood still, oddly co-exists next to luxurious, sophisticated and very modern world-class hotels, spa resorts and mega shopping malls. Not only will you find some of the best golf courses in the world, exploring the unique culture during the day and experiencing the non-stop, jumping nightlife will keep you busy from dawn to dust.

The 10 ASEAN member countries consider themselves neighbors and live in harmony by recognizing their similarities and respecting each other’s differences. This mutual respect led to the creation of the ASEAN Travel Forum (ATF), which was first established in 1981. As a regional effort, ATF was created to promote ASEAN as one complete travel destination.

Not only has ATF played a major role in the development of the region’s tourism, TRAVEX at ATF has become the most important marketplace for the region’s travel suppliers to showcase their tourism products to buyers from all over the world.

As an attendee to ATF 2012 in Manado, Indonesia, I experienced first-hand the incredible hospitality of the Indonesians. Rarely have I been to a destination where everyone seemed to have a genuine smile of their face. And don’t say the name ‘Obama’, you’ll be mobbed. Having spent a part of his youth there, the Indonesians love Obama and consider him one of their own.

The ASEAN members recognize the importance of tourism to their economies and have developed a Tourism Strategic Plan as their roadmap to developing a sustainable tourism policy that benefits the local population and will help elevate its citizens out of poverty.

Coupled with warm and hospitable people, fascinating cultures, unique architecture, delicious cuisine and beautiful geography – and where the 13th century co-exists comfortably with the 21st century, the region offers something for everyone. Regardless if you’re an adventure seeker, backpacker, traveling with the family, business person, trekker, photo enthusiast, or just seeking fun in the sun, sand and sea, you’ll find much to discover in an ASEAN country.

And if you’re looking for an unforgettable place to hold that special meeting, conference or incentive program, Southeast Asia offers many exciting and exotic options. Whether its the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, the Shangri-la in Singapore or the Four Seasons in Chiang Mai, the meeting planner will capture a piece of the past and enjoy ultra modern facilities in ASEAN member countries.