The Asian Development Bank (AfDB) has set up a $ 1.7 million technical assistance mechanism to accelerate the recovery of tourism in Southeast Asia after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic , stimulate the inclusive and sustainable development of the sector and help local tourism entrepreneurs, especially women and young people, adopt digital platforms to develop their businesses.
The South East Asia Sustainable Tourism Facility will help countries identify and prepare environmentally friendly tourism projects and catalyze private finance to support them. It will help businesses make better use of tourism facilities and deliver digital tourism services. The facility will also help policymakers design visas, online short-term rentals and other policies to attract visitors and remote workers who stay longer and spend more, allow more small entrepreneurs to operate legitimately accommodation services and will increase tourism tax revenue.
“This new facility aims to help developing AfDB member countries in Southeast Asia revive tourism, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Steven Schipani, senior specialist in AfDB tourism industry for Southeast Asia. “The projects supported by the facility will develop green and resilient urban and transport infrastructure in secondary cities to improve the competitiveness of the tourism sector, help create jobs, protect the environment and accelerate inclusive digital transformations. “
In 2019, travel and tourism 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 fell 82% in 2020 compared to 2019, while domestic tourism remains constrained by travel restrictions and reduced economic activity. The sector’s contribution to regional GDP fell by 53% in 2020, pushing more people into poverty.
Even before COVID-19, Southeast Asia lagged behind global tourism competitiveness benchmarks for land, port and urban infrastructure, information and communication technology readiness, and environmental sustainability. Governments hope to address these challenges alongside efforts to revive tourism. The facility will support key tourism-related priorities defined by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and sub-regional tourism strategies in Southeast Asia.
The facility includes a grant of $ 500,000 from the AfDB Special Technical Assistance Fund. In addition, the AfDB will administer a grant of $ 225,000 from the Trust Fund for Improving Project Readiness financed by the Nordic Development Fund, a grant of $ 500,000 from the Partnership Fund for e-Asia and the knowledge from the Republic of Korea and a grant of $ 500,000 from the Spanish Cooperation Fund for Technical Assistance.