U.S. Private Sector Extends Commitment to the ASEAN Travel and Tourism Industry with Knowledge Sharing on Inclusive Business and Digital Economy

(Bangkok) - More than 180 owners and executives of Travel and Tourism Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) from Bangkok and surrounding cities participated in a full-day workshop entitled “SME Digital Transformation for the ASEAN Travel and Tourism Industry”.

The workshop served as an implementation activity following the US-ASEAN Business Council’s (US-ABC) Business Mission to the Twenty-First Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers (21st M-ATM) in Chiang Mai last January, and was conducted in close collaboration with the Thailand Office of SMEs Promotion (OSMEP), Tourism Council of Thailand, and Thammasat University. It also marked the first capacity building workshop of US-ABC’s newly established Travel and Tourism Committee in support of the travel and tourism ecosystem in ASEAN.

The Committee’s members, such as Airbnb, Cisco, Expedia, PayPal, and Visa, shared their expertise on promoting greater economic inclusivity and utilization of digital tools to Thailand’s travel and tourism industry SMEs, such as restaurants, boutique hotels, and tour operators through sessions of knowledge transfer.
 
The workshop was officially opened by US-ABC’s Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director, Ambassador Michael W. Michalak; and Director-General of OSMEP, Mr. Suwanchai Lohawatanakul.

“We believe that this workshop has further showcased the commitment of the U.S. business community, as well as our newly-formed Travel & Tourism Committee, in support of the Second Thailand National Tourism Development Plan for 2017-2021 and Measure 3.3 in particular, which aims to equip local communities with capabilities to support, participate and benefit from tourism,” said Ambassador Michael W. Michalak. “We hope to sustain this relationship with both the Thai government and local SMEs moving forward.”
 
“Internet, Mobile and Mobile Apps have completely transformed the travel and tourism industry. It has disrupted the whole industry, blurring the lines between the big and small players, in many cases offering more advantages to SME players. SME players are resorting to customer focused travel solutions and aim to provide one stop solution for all travel related services through technology. We at Cisco are excited to be US-ABC’s main partner for the ASEAN SME capacity building program this year and to play a role in creating digital ecosystems across the region for SMEs”, said Bidhan Roy, Managing Director, ASEAN SMB Market & Distribution of Cisco Systems (USA) Pte Ltd.
 
“Tourism is a tremendous force for positive change and enabling livelihoods in ASEAN; it accounts for one in every five jobs created around the world today. This is especially true for Thailand, ASEAN’s most popular tourist destination with more than 37 million tourists every year, and where tourism contributes to 9.4 per cent of GDP and 6.2 per cent of jobs. The world’s largest full-service OTA, Expedia has long empowered local hoteliers with digital marketing and revenue management skills. As Chair of US-ABC’s Travel & Tourism Committee, I am glad to say fellow members share that passion as well, translating their breadth and depth in the tourism economy ranging from payments, digital marketing, to vacation rentals, into constructive capacity-building,” said Ang Choo Pin, Senior Director, Government and Corporate Affairs Asia, Expedia Group.

“The way in which people are making their travel bookings is changing, and as travelers evolve, so must businesses. If businesses can offer a simpler and more secure payment experience that allows travelers to make online bookings anywhere they want, they are set for take-off. As a global digital payments leader with 244 million accounts in over 200 markets worldwide, PayPal is focused on helping travel businesses in ASEAN tap into this global opportunity. I am positive that this workshop, organized by US-ABC, will benefit businesses in this sector, including independent hoteliers and tourism operators better connect with the ever-evolving travelers,” said Nagesh Devata, General Manager for Cross Border Trade, PayPal Southeast Asia.

“Digital platforms enable more SMEs in the tourism industry to reach an international audience. At Airbnb, we are working closely with government and industry partners to share hospitality standards and bring local Thai entrepreneurs and community businesses to global travelers who seek unique, authentic travel experiences in Thailand,” said Mich Goh, Airbnb Head of Public Policy for Southeast Asia.

In addition to sessions for SMEs, the workshop held a Training of Trainers (TOT) session for more than 20 officials from Thailand Department of Tourism, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Tourism Council of Thailand, Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA), Federation of Thai Industry (FTI), and OSMEP. This session aimed to stimulate a sustainable multiplier effect from regulators to the industry players through sessions of panel discussion and training with a focus on the prospects and policy recommendations to developing Thailand travel and tourism industry in the digital economy era.

Today’s workshop extends the US-ABC’s commitment to empowering ASEAN SMEs. Since 2011, more than 6,500 SMEs in all ten ASEAN countries have benefitted from the US-ABC’s SME capacity building programs. In 2016, US-ABC launched the ASEAN SME Academy (www.asean-sme-academy.org), a self-help and self-paced online learning tool for SMEs, offering free courses and resources from US-ABC member companies. Sectors covered by these initiatives include the use of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) tools, marketing, logistics, and promotion of women entrepreneurship.

For inquiries related to this workshop and other US-ABC’s SME activities, please contact Vinsensius Kangen at vkangen@usasean.org.

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For more than 30 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's 150+ membership generates over $6 trillion in revenue and employ more than 13 million people. Members include the largest US companies conducting business in ASEAN, and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for over 100 years. The Council has offices in: Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore.