1. The Government of Thailand has just completed its internal requirements and procedures to join other ASEAN Member States in signing the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Tourism Professionals, which is one of the key ASEAN tourism initiatives to support the establishment of ASEAN Economic Community 2015. The signing by H.E. Mr. Chumpol Silapa-archa, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand was taken place this morning at the Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao Bangkok, witnessed by H.E. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN Secretary-General, and Ambassadors of ASEAN Member States to Thailand.
2. The Travel and Tourism sector plays a very important role in the overall ASEAN economy. Based on the ASEAN Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2012, it is estimated that this sector accounts for 4.6 percent of ASEAN GDP. The contribution can be as large as 10.9 percent when all indirect contributions from the sector are taken into account. In addition, it directly employs 9.3 million people, or 3.2 percent of total employment, and indirectly supports some 25 million jobs. The growth of international tourism in ASEAN has been remarkable. In 1991, there were only 20 million international visitor arrivals to ASEAN. After 20 years, the number has grown 4 times to more than 81 million arrivals in 2011.
3. To ensure growth sustainability and greater contribution to the ASEAN economy, the ASEAN tourism attractiveness needs to be accompanied by excellent quality of services provided by the tourism industry within the region. Having high-skilled tourism workers to deliver services should become a norm to guarantee satisfaction of tourists visiting the region. One of the ways to achieve this goal is through mutual recognition of qualifications of tourism professionals across Member States.
4. The purposes of this MRA mechanism are to facilitate mobility of tourism professionals within ASEAN based on tourism competency qualification/certificate, and at the same time, improve the quality of services delivered by tourism professionals. There are 32 job titles covered under this MRA, ranging from housekeeping, front office, food and beverages services, and food production for hotel division, to travel agencies and tour operator for travel division.
5. In his remarks, Dr. Surin welcomed the signing of this MRA by Thailand, the signing of MRA by Thailand marks an important milestone for ASEAN in fully operationalising this agreement in particular, and in successfully pursuing the important initiatives for the integration of ASEAN and realisation of the ASEAN Community in general.
6. In supporting the implementation of MRA on Tourism Professional, with the technical support from ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program (AADCP) Phase-2, a number of the MRA components have been completed, including among others, the ASEAN Common Competency Standards for Tourism Professionals, Common ASEAN Tourism Curriculum, Regional Qualification Framework and Recognition System, ASEAN Tourism Professionals Monitoring Committee, Toolboxes for Housekeeping, National Tourism Professionals Board and Tourism Professionals Certification Board in respective ASEAN Member States. Next week, ASEAN would begin training to develop a pool of ASEAN Master Trainers and ASEAN Master Assessors in Bali, which is expected to be completed in December 2012. Several projects to further support the MRA are also being carried out, such as, the development of toolboxes for all hotel divisions, gap analysis in the implementation of MRA, and a feasibility study to establish the Regional Secretariat.
7. With the operationalisation of the MRA on Tourism Professionals and completion of those necessary infrastructures, ASEAN could begin implementation of this MRA particularly on housekeeping division by next year. Taking into account the high interest of the region’s tourism training and education institutions and tourism industries, ASEAN would soon have high-qualified tourism professionals working in the industry delivering hi