Deficient airports limiting Asean tourism potential


By Bernadette D. Nicolas | Philippine Daily Inquirer

Poor infrastructure and rigid policies are still hampering borderless travel in the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) region.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regional director for the Asia and the Pacific Arun Mishra acknowledged efforts to develop other modes of transport, but countries should be focusing on improving aviation infrastructure as the main driver in delivering tourism.

Mishra cited the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as one of the examples of congested airports that needed improvement.

Tony Fernandes, the chief executive of pioneering low-cost carrier AirAsia, added: “Governments are missing the story by building [just] one airport and trying to squeeze everyone [there].”

He added “infrastructure has struggled to keep up with the success” of airlines.

Mishra also said there was a growing demand for aviation professionals in the region vis-a-vis the growth of the tourism industry.

Nonetheless, the mobility of qualified aviation professionals was being restricted by regulations that hinder the free flow of labor. Harmonization of regulations would help, he said.

Members of the Asean region are now in talks to improve visa policies, a track already taken by the European Union.

A single-visa committee is working on this policy, which is expected to be implemented this year.

“I think tourism is the flavor of the month … I think this is a golden era and I think [we should not] screw it up,” Fernandes said.

Thailand tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said Asean countries should improve travel and tourism integration through promoting air, land and maritime connectivity.

“Asean is one of the world’s fastest growing tourism markets. We are 50 years old but [Asean is acting] like 15,” she said.