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ASEAN center hosts seminar on tourism

Event ties professionals from Korea with those in Laos and Myanmar
Feb 22,2018
Kim Young-sun, secretary general of the ASEAN-Korea Centre, fifth from front left; Than Aung Kyaw, deputy director general of Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, sixth from front left; and Lee Sang-wha, Korean ambassador to Myanmar, third from front right, at the Myanmar-Korea Investment Promotion Seminar in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb. 8. [ASEAN-KOREA CENTRE]
The ASEAN-Korea Centre (AKC) hosted a week-long seminar on sustainable tourism and investment in Laos and Myanmar, connecting Korean and local professionals in both the public and private sectors.

“Tourism plays an important role in the national economic sector for Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). Recognizing the potential and prospect to develop tourism, the Lao government is determined to organize ‘Visit Laos Year 2018,’” said Kim Young-sun, secretary general of the ASEAN-Korea Centre, at Thavisouk Hotel in Vang Vieng, Laos, during the ASEAN-Korea Tourism Capacity Building Workshop on Feb. 6.

“It has made tourism one of the 11 priority development sectors, hoping to promote, advertise and encourage more domestic and foreign visitors to spend their vacations in Laos,” he added. “The ASEAN-Korea Centre has also assisted in strengthening the competitiveness of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) tourism industries by organizing workshops on various topics such as ecotourism and sustainable tourism.”

Kim noted that the number of Korean tourists visiting Laos increased nearly five times from 34,707 in 2011 to 173,260 in 2016.

During the workshop, the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism presented the country’s plans on sustainable tourism at Vang Vieng. Korea’s tourism professionals also spoke with local tourism professionals on Korea’s strategies for developing its tourism industry in a sustainable way.

“From what I heard and learned at the workshop, it seems Laos tourism programs will need to focus on providing safe transportation from the airport to local tourist sites and also develop programs that are geared for families,” said Baek Seung-woo, area director of finance of the Hyatt International Corporation. “I also noticed that some tourists create a lot of noise near these tourist sites, so a way to control the noise level will also have to be developed.”

The AKC also hosted a three-day program in Myanmar for 15 Korean companies and organizations to explore investment opportunities in the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors and for Korean and local professionals to share knowledge and best practices on developing Bagan, a city in Myanmar, into a cultural heritage tourism destination in a sustainable fashion.

“The Myanmar government is undergoing several deregulation measures to create a more business-friendly environment in Myanmar. As you know, the New Investment Law, which came into effect in April 2017, has established a stronger foundation for foreign investments,” Kim said during the Myanmar-Korea Investment Promotion Seminar on Feb. 8 at Lotte Hotel Yangon.

“Furthermore,” Kim added, “investment approval procedures have been streamlined and investment incentives have been substantially improved. Also, new infrastructure has continuously been built. The New Yangon airport was opened in March 2016 and special economic zones (SEZ) such as Thilawa SEZ are being constructed to attract more foreign companies.”

Kim added that some Korean companies have already established successful businesses in the country, including Posco, CJ CheilJedang and Yojin Construction & Engineering. Some representatives from these companies also met with the visiting Korean professionals to discuss what types of investments into Myanmar may be suitable for Korean companies and organizations.

“This trip was useful for me and my colleagues as we are looking to reach out to Asean nations for infrastructure investment projects,” said Hwang Cheol-seung, general manager of Incheon Transit.

The week-long program ended with a sustainable tourism workshop in Bagan. “In recent years, the two countries have enjoyed a great increase in the volume of people-to-people exchanges,” Kim said during the ASEAN-Korea Tourism Capacity Building Workshop in Bagan on Feb. 9. “In 2017, about 66,000 Korean tourists visited Myanmar, compared to 12,000 in 2008. Also, a total of about 66,000 Myanmar people traveled to Korea last year, compared to 34,000 in 2002. Such frequent traveling and exchange of people has, indeed, led to a deeper understanding of each other.”

He added, “Recognizing the importance of people-to-people exchange and the need for cooperation in the tourism sector, the AKC has organized four Tourism Capacity-Building Workshops in Myanmar so far: in Yangon in 2009, 2013 and 2015, and in Mandalay in 2011. And now we are here in Bagan, for the first time, to discuss strategies on strengthening the competitiveness of Bagan as a cultural heritage destination.”

The AKC has been hosting workshops on tourism and development in 10 Asean member countries since 2009. “The programs are planned and coordinated with each country’s tourism and development departments,” said the center in its statement, “with an aim to strengthen competitiveness of tourism industries of Asean with a view to better target and attract Korean tourists.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]