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July 5, 2007

Tourism officials meet in Ha Noi
Tourism officials from ASEAN member countries congregated in Ha Noi to discuss measures to increase tourism services, infrastructure and the free flow of human resources amongst ASEAN and its dialogue partners.

At the meeting of ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs), opened on July 5, participants discussed the Agreement on Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA) that is expected to be signed in the 2008 ASEAN Tourism Forum in Thailand. The MRA allows for the free flow of tourism professionals from ASEAN states to gain and undertake employment opportunities in all of the bloc's member countries.

Tourism officials also exchanged views on how to better facilitate the travel of tourists and coordination between tourism and transport sectors in order to ramp up interregional tourism.

From July 3-7, Vietnam will also play host to meetings of ASEAN NTOs and dialogue partners from Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, Russia and Australia.

At the sessions with Japan, China and the RoK, the delegates discussed assistance programmes handed out to ASEAN travel industries and preparations for establishing the ASEAN-China and ASEAN-RoK centres that are based on the already existing ASEAN-Japan centre. The Japanese government backed initiative has been lauded for its ability to encourage and sustain growth in trade, investment and tourism between the countries.

Since joining ASEAN in 1995, Vietnam's tourism industry has witnessed a boon to its coffers from the marked spike in the bloc's visitor numbers travelling to the country, to the point that the ASEAN market is Viet Nam's third largest after China and Japan. From 1999-2006, the number of inbound tourists from ASEAN countries tripled, from 167,300 to 573,790.

The hosting of the NTO meetings are considered a preparatory step for Vietnam’s hosting and chairing of the ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2009. VNA

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