The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has issued this month the Guidelines on Hygiene and Safety for Professionals and the Communities in the Tourism Industry. Guidelines were developed for eight sectors:
- ecotourism/community-based tourism,
- convention centers,
- facilities inside hotels and resorts,
- spa and wellness,
- theme parks, and
- travel and tour operation.
It also launched the ASEAN Tourism Safe and Warm Stamp, which will be displayed at tourism establishments that adhere to the guidelines.
In line with its vision of a single tourism destination, ASEAN developed common regional guidelines and standards for the industry as a key strategy for building back better from the pandemic and to rebuild the trust and confidence of tourism workers, travelers, and local communities.
The travel and tourism industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and it has yet to recover from its devastating impact.
In 2019, the industry accounted for 12.1% of Southeast Asia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employed 42 million workers, mostly women working for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). But international visitor arrivals dropped 82% in 2020 from 2019, while domestic tourism remains constrained by travel restrictions and reduced economic activity. The industry’s contribution to regional GDP fell by 53% in 2020, pushing more people into poverty.
Some ASEAN countries have started reopening their borders to tourists through vaccinated travel lanes, from specific countries, and/or for certain destinations. These include Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Malaysia plans to accept vaccinated travelers in March.
The ASEAN tourism guidelines “consolidate, adapt, and harmonize the various existing international and national standards, best practices, and guidelines as well as ASEAN Member States’ national health and safety protocols, to reflect common regional parameters.” These non-mandatory guidelines are recommendations subject to national laws and regulations.
Health and safety standards include automatic temperature checks and the use of no-touch sanitizer upon entry to tourism establishments, masking, disinfecting surfaces, and social distancing.
The guidelines provide practical advice, such as asking tour operators to provide an advance list of visitors to destinations, including community-based tourism sites, to enable destination managers to schedule visits and limit the number of visitors to avoid overcrowding. They also provide sustainability guidelines that promotes responsible tourism. These include supporting ethnic culture and products; using locally sourced, organic, and biodegradable cleaning products and amenities; saving water and energy; reducing waste; and strengthening capacity for early health risk reduction and management.