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Intergovernmental collaboration in tourism
among ASEAN nations has received little
attention in the literature despite the
signifi cant contribution that tourism makes
in the region. This paper helps improve our
understanding of the phenomenon by
providing empirical evidence that explains
the preconditions that gave rise to ASEAN
tourism and the formulation of its policy
framework. It is suggested that, to truly
realise the vision of economic integration
and sustainable tourism development,
continuous efforts are required to establish,
promote and protect the common interests
of member countries. Policy-makers should
also strive for a good balance between
pragmatism and mechanism when
implementing policies. Copyright © 2009
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Received 19 February 2009; Revised 6 October 2009; Accepted
6 October 2009

Keywords: intergovernmental collaboration;
ASEAN; tourism policy.


Despite the continuous cooperative endeavour among ASEAN (Associa-tion of Southeast Asian Nations)
member nations since 1998 and the signifi cant

contribution that tourism makes in the region,
there are very few studies that examine ASEAN
tourism collaboration. The majority of existing
studies that are related to ASEAN economic
cooperation deal with general framework
agreements, namely ASEAN Free Trade Agree-
ment (AFTA) and ASEAN Framework Agree-
ment on Services (AFAS). Collaboration in
specifi c economic sectors is overlooked by

Each supranational organisation forms and
operates in a specifi c context. Often, existing
theories cannot fully explain the various
interactions within these organisations. Using
ASEAN tourism as a case study, we identifi ed
the unique features of this collaboration. These
fi ndings do not only help expand the boundar-
ies of existing theories and thus contribute to
the literature, but also provide input into
improving ASEAN tourism policies, which in
turn enhances the contribution of tourism to
the development of the region.

This study has three objectives:

(1) to identify the factors and conditions under
which members of ASEAN have entered
into a collaborative relationship in tourism

(2) to identify the factors involved in the
process of formulating the existing ASEAN
tourism policy framework; and

(3) to discuss some implications for ASEAN
countries to improve their collaboration in

While the authors acknowledge the presence
of bilateral agreements and partnerships such
as BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Darussalam–Indone-
sia–Malaysia–Philippines East ASEAN Growth
Area), this paper focuses on explicit ASEAN
initiatives in tourism collaboration.

Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Int. J. Tourism Res. 12, 291–302 (2010)
Published online 3 November 2009 in Wiley InterScience
( DOI: 10.1002/jtr.757

Understanding ASEAN Tourism
Collaboration — the Preconditions and
Policy Framework Formulation
Emma P. Y. Wong1,*, Nina Mistilis2 and Larry Dwyer2
1Centre for Tourism and Services Research, Victoria University, Australia
2School of Marketing, University of New South Wales, Australia

*Correspondence to: Dr. Emma Wong, Lecturer, School
of HTM, Victoria University, PO Box 14428, Melbourne,
Vic. 8001, Australia.
E-mail: [email protected]

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292 E. P. Y. Wong, N. Mistilis and L. Dwyer

Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 12, 291–302 (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr


ASEAN was established as a means of main-
taining peace and stability in Southeast Asia by
providing a forum for the discussion and reso-
lution of regional issues that had the potential
to destabilise the region. Five countries offi -
cially formed the Association on 8 August
1967: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sin-
gapore and Thailand. Together with Brunei,
which joined on 8 January 1984, the six coun-
tries are also known as ASEAN-6.

With the fall of communism in Eastern
Europe and the end of the Cold War, there was
no longer a pressing need for ASEAN coun-
tries to fear their communist neighbours such
as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. These coun-
tries had started to abandon central planning
and implement market-oriented economic
reforms since the early 1980s, changes that
implicated trade and investment opportunities
and indicated that ASEAN regional grouping
needed to be enlarged to maintain relevance.

The momentum to expand ASEAN was
further accelerated by the need to strengthen
the region’s voice in international trading
bodies, such as the Asia–Pacifi c Economic
Cooperation forum (APEC), the World Trade
Organization, and in negotiations with the
European Union (Tan, 2003). Between 1995
and 1997, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and
Vietnam joined ASEAN. They are sometimes
referred to as newer members with less-
developed economies.

The long-term goal of ASEAN is to establish
a free trade area in Southeast Asia (Yeh, 2002).
While ASEAN’s economic emphasis has most
often focused on trade in manufactured goods,
minerals and fuels, tourism has grown to
become an important consideration, in large
part due to the rapid growth of the industry in
the region (Timothy, 2003). Thus, there is a
need to include tourism in the ASEAN trade
agenda and effort.

Tourism is forecast to continue growing
more rapidly than any other global region and
currently is greatly signifi cant to ASEAN des-
tinations. Inbound tourism includes intra-
ASEAN travel (well over 50% for Laos,
Malaysia and Myanmar) and extra-ASEAN
(at least 70% for Cambodia, the Philippines,

Vietnam and Thailand (ASEAN, 2009). While
such differences in the proportion of market
sources may affect the countries’ perception of
the importance of intra- or extra-ASEAN travel,
no country could ignore the signifi cant growth
of the regional market, from 33 million in 2002
to 65.5 million in 2008 (UNWTO, 2003; ASEAN
2009). In fact, according to UNWTO, the South-
east Asian region is expected to experience an
average annual growth rate of 6.3% between
1995 and 2020. By 2020, the regional arrival
fi gure is projected to reach 136 million per
annum (UNWTO, 2000), illustrating the
growing importance of tourism for and the
interdependence among ASEAN nations.


The research adopts a case approach. Case
study is deemed appropriate in examining
contemporary events when the relevant behav-
iours cannot be manipulated. The case approach
deals with evidence collected from direction
observation of events and interviews of people
involved (Yin, 2003). Considering the fact that
the current research concerns a contemporary
social phenomenon that cannot be manipu-
lated by researchers, case study is an appropri-
ate research strategy for this research.

Various sources of evidence were used in
this study, including offi cial documents from
ASEAN, non-offi cial publications (e.g. aca-
demic journals, books, newspapers and trade
magazines) and interviews with key stake-
holders involved. The use of multiple sources
allowed data triangulation and thus enhanced
the credibility and dependability of fi ndings
(Lincoln and Guba, 1985).

In-depth interviews were conducted in
January to March 2005 and January to Febru-
ary 2006 by means of interviews. A total of 22
face-to-face and telephone interviews were
administered and two email responses were
received. Twenty-one individuals took part in
the study, three of whom were interviewed
twice. Among the 21 participants, 13 were gov-
ernment offi cials, representing nine out of the
10 ASEAN member countries; the other eight
represented international organisations (e.g.
ASEAN Secretariat; Asian Development Bank),
industry associations (e.g. ASEAN Tourism

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ASEAN Tourism Policies 297

Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 12, 291–302 (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr

In terms of political culture, the pragmatic
approach adopted by ASEAN helps explain
the need for an environmental trigger to drive
collaboration. Such style of policy-making and
its implications are yet to be fully addressed in
the literature.

Experiences and learning also took place
because with the signing of the Tourism Agree-
ment, the interrelationships among the member
nations (on a national level) had become more
cohesive and characterised by more transpar-
ent communication compared with the pre-
2001 period.

. . . the ASEAN Tourism Agreement formed
the basis of our collaboration. Before [the
Agreement], we [our efforts] were not very
coordinated. (Cambodian government
offi cial)

The seven objectives

Specifi cally, the ASEAN Tourism Agreement
set out seven objectives (ASEAN, 2002b):

(1) to co-operate in facilitating travel into and
within ASEAN;

(2) to enhance cooperation in the tourism
industry among ASEAN member states
in order to improve its effi ciency
and competitiveness;

(3) to substantially reduce restrictions to trade
in tourism and travel services among
ASEAN member states;

(4) to establish an integrated network of
tourism and travel services in order to
maximise the complementary nature of the
region’s tourist attractions;

(5) to enhance the development and promo-
tion of ASEAN as a single tourism destina-
tion with world-class standards, facilities
and attractions;

(6) to enhance mutual assistance in human
resource development and strengthen
cooperation to develop, upgrade and
expand tourism and travel facilities and
services in ASEAN; and

(7) to create favourable conditions for the
public and private sectors to engage more
deeply in tourism development, intra-
ASEAN travel and investment in tourism
services and facilities.

Upon further examination of the seven objec-
tives in the Agreement, we argue that they can
be put into three categories of purposes: (i) to
liberalise the fl ow of money and people from
outside and within the region; (ii) to increase
the competitiveness of the tourism industry, so
as to compete against other regions in the
world; and (iii) to strengthen the unity and
identity of ASEAN as a region, maintaining its
relevance in the international arena, and also
ultimately helping counter the competition
from other regions. These three purposes are
in fact congruent with the two preconditions
of ASEAN economic cooperation — stability
and reciprocity — where the member countries
have a common goal of attaining higher
regional competitiveness, becoming a
‘stronger segment of the global supply
chain’ (ASEAN, 2003).

Table 2 shows the categorisation of the seven
objectives. Facilitation of travel (objective i),
reducing trade restrictions (objective iii) and
encouraging tourism investment (objective vii)
are objectives set to liberalise the fl ow of money
and people from outside and within the
ASEAN region. Improving industry effi ciency
and competitiveness (objective ii) together
with enhancing facilities and services (objec-
tive vi) aim to increase competitiveness of the
regional tourism industry. Finally, establishing
an integrated network of services (objective iv)
and enhancing promotion (objective v) can
be categorised as objectives to strengthen the
unity and identity of ASEAN as a region.

Bali Concord II and ASEAN Agreement for
the Integration of Priority Sectors (AFAIPS)

The realisation of these objectives requires an
action plan. The so-called Roadmap for Inte-
gration of the Tourism Sector was introduced
in 2004 following the launch of the Bali Concord
II in October 2003.

The Bali Concord II can be considered one of
the landmark documents of ASEAN as it reaf-
fi rmed the members’ commitment to coopera-
tion and declared their aspiration of establishing
an ASEAN community. The Concord also created
a signifi cant positive impact on tourism collabo-
ration. For example, tourism was identifi ed as
one of the 11 priorities areas by the High Level
Task Force on ASEAN Economic Cooperation.

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ASEAN Tourism Policies 301

Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 12, 291–302 (2010)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr

effectiveness of policy implementation can
be improved while preserving the pragmatic
culture at the same time.


Given the paucity of studies in ASEAN tourism,
this paper serves as a starting point to improve
our understanding of the phenomenon. It pro-
vides empirical evidence that explains the pre-
conditions that gave rise to ASEAN tourism
and the formulation of its policy framework.
ASEAN countries compete as well as collabo-
rate. Their collaboration in tourism operates in
a specifi c and complex context. Existing theo-
ries cannot always provide a complete expla-
nation. For example, our fi ndings show the
need to distinguish between indirect and direct
preconditions for collaboration and that prag-
matism in policy formulation is yet to be fully
addressed in the literature. The boundaries of
existing theories thus need to be expanded.

The paper also provides suggestions to
policy-makers for improving current collabo-
ration, which in turn enhances the contribution
of tourism to regional social and economic
development. Further research should focus
on evaluating the progress of the collaboration,
developing more concrete strategies for
improving policy implementation and theoris-
ing regional collaboration in specifi c economic
sectors. Future research could also attempt a
comparative study with similar supranational
organisations, such as the European Union,
identifying similarities and differences in terms
of indirect and direct preconditions, approach
to policy-making and factors involved in the
process of formulating the tourism policy
framework. After all, the distinct infl uences on
collaboration in tourism, in contrast to other
industry sectors, remain unclear in the

As ASEAN members evolve in their politi-
cal, social and economic development along-
side variations in the global economic
environment and dramatic events, so too will
the nature of their tourism collaboration. The
formation and early progression of such col-
laboration does not easily fi t any textbook pro-
totype, and this paper has provided the
framework through which future development
can be observed, analysed and monitored. This

constitutes a signifi cant step in our under-
standing of what clearly is a dynamic


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