The driving force behind ATF TRAVEX, the longest-running annual ASEAN leisure travel trade event is to boost regional cooperation and attract more tourists to all the ASEAN member countries, most importantly to Laos.
ATF TRAVEX is the longest-running annual ASEAN leisure travel trade event, showcasing the largest contingent of ASEAN sellers and buyers. The annual event, organized this year in Vientiane, capital of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, involves all the tourism industry sectors of the 10 ASEAN member nations: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. ATF 2013, hosted by Lao PDR, was all geared up to welcome some 2,000 delegates which included 470 international buyers and 141 international media, including a number of Hungarian journalists and photographers as well as Hungarian travel agents and tour operators, who were keen to promote Southeast Asia as a whole. The driving force behind the event was to boost regional cooperation and attract more tourists to all the ASEAN member countries, most importantly to Laos.
The regional forum brought together around 2,000 delegates including tourism officials from ASEAN and its dialog partners (China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India and Russia), along with buyers, sellers and media from around the world. Interest from East-Central Europe turned out to be larger than anticipated. Lao PM Thongsing Thammavong addressed the opening ceremony, reiterating that this event is of historic significance for both ASEAN and Laos in preparation for the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. In addition, ASEAN nations are endowed with rich natural resources and a history of prosperous civilizations and beautiful monuments. These features still exist today as attractive tourism resources, making the ASEAN bloc one of the most desirable destinations in Asia. He went on to say that "this has made an enormous contribution to the socio-economic development of member countries, creating jobs, alleviating poverty and helping to close the gap in economic development between the newer and longstanding ASEAN member countries."The Director-General of the local Tourism Marketing Department, Saly Phimpinith, expressed his enthusiasm over the fact that several Hungarian travel companies participated in the event, promoting not only Lao PDR, but all of its neighbors, which also help create the image of Laos as a small, but unique gem among the big ones. He alsoemphasized the fruits of the cooperation between Hungary and Laos in the past - something which has been revived recently. More and more investors, financiers and agricultural experts are entering Laos to build further bridges between the two countries. Rezsõ Sárdi, Managing Director of Lao Airlines GSA in East-Central Europe (covering Hungary, Austria, Poland the Czech Republic) and expert on Laos-related issues, stressed that "due to the excellent cooperation among the ASEAN states, tourism statistics have been constantly on the rise, with the number of international tourists setting foot into the region rising to 81.2 million. Lao Airlines, the country's national flag carrier is now among the strongest airlines in the region, making Vientiane and Laos as a whole the hub of airtransportation. Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and South Korea all become accessible for passengers from the East-Central European region by using the beautiful and laid-back city of Vientiane as a gateway. Lao Airlines will continue entering new routes in the foreseeable future, which will strengthen the position of the small, land linked Southeast Asian country. Laos, in itself, qualifies for a number-one destination, certainly a must-visit place in the region with its multiethnic people, untouched nature, and the unique juxtaposition of French and Lao culture."