Sustainable tourism is a key economic driver for the Asia-Pacific region, creating jobs and promoting investment and development.

To help support growth in the region through travel and tourism, the APEC Tourism Working Group (TWG) was formed in 1991 as a platform for tourism administrators of APEC economies, to share information, exchange views and develop areas of cooperation in tourism trade and policies.

The TWG’s objective is to foster economic development in the Asia-Pacific region through sustainable tourism. In doing so, the TWG recognizes that tourism is one of the region’s fastest growing industries and, therefore, is of significant importance to the economic development of APEC economies. Tourism also helps foster regional understanding and cooperation and, while tourism industries in member economies are at different levels of development, these economies share the common goal of quality development and improved services.

In May 2016, Tourism Ministers from the APEC member economies met in Lima, under the theme, Connecting Asia-Pacific Tourism through Travel Facilitation.

The Ministers’ Declaration reflected the outcomes of the 9th APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting chaired by Peru, and describes joint actions to be taken forward by APEC economies to further enhance economic development through travel and tourism in the APEC region.

Apart from an emphasis on fostering efficient and secure travel that could greatly help APEC economies achieve their shared target of 800 million international tourists by 2025, particular areas of focus include enhancing international and domestic air connectivity, implementing travel facilitation measures, development of the tourism sector’s labour skills and workforce programs, and small business and entrepreneurship development for inclusive tourism growth.

It was also in 2016 that the budding ecotourism destination of Kokopo, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, hosted APEC tourism officials and industry partners at the 49th APEC Tourism Working Group meeting. The meeting discussed deepening APEC’s engagement on tourism to better understand the new challenges and to harness growth opportunities to build an inclusive and rewarding tourism sector in the region.

APEC is currently working with the private sector to encourage entrepreneurship and industry innovation, including the development of new products and niche markets, to share best practices and boost occupational standards and certification programs, and to grant wider access to training and career development vital to encouraging young people to pursue long-term employment in tourism. And the topic of Crisis Management and Communications, and Keeping Tourism Resilient and Safe was discussed in a special session by the TWG at their meeting in Papua New Guinea.

Last page update: November 2016

Current Activities

TWG 01 2014A: “Develop Air Connectivity in the APEC Region”

Industry usually assesses air connectivity from the perspective of an airline or a destination, but this assessment is unique because it is from the perspective of an economic region. With a focus on improving air connectivity between APEC economies to stimulate the growth of tourism and trade, TWG had undertaken this project, which concludes with the publication of 23 reports by end of November 2016.

This project focused on market demand and recognized that many other components need to be taken into consideration before a new route is implemented including government perspectives, and airlines perspectives including financial modeling and many other inputs.

In addition to recommended new routes and schedule improvements, the study recommends:

  • strengthening tourism cooperation on air connectivity among the APEC economies, as instructed by APEC Tourism Ministers in the Lima Declaration of the last TMM9, since increased international and domestic connectivity can help regionally distribute the social and economic benefits of tourism;
  • engagement among APEC working groups including the Tourism Working Group (TWG), the Transport Working Group (TPTWG) and the Business Mobility Group (BMG) in order to further liberalize the air services market to other APEC economies allowing the fullest access to the major airports in the economy;
  • prompt engagement with airlines and industry partners and provide full support for planned new air route development, which is usually a lengthy process that involves a significant amount of investment from the airlines; and other recommendations.
In considering next steps, the TWG will look to possible future collaboration with the Transportation Working Group (TPTWG).

TWG 02 2014A: “Developing Smart Traveller Programmes to Facilitate International Travel in the APEC Region”.

In order to fully tap the economic potential of international tourism, smart technologies can be used to enhance tourist safety. Away from their home economies and exposed to possible threats, foreign travellers are a vulnerable group. ‘Smart Traveller’ programmes has the potential to provide travellers with regular updates on their destinations as well as keep them connected with their home economies. TWG members will explore ‘Smart Traveller’ models as travel facilitating tools and seek to develop guidelines as a basis for their own ‘Smart Traveller’ programs.  

TWG 01 2015: “Developing Traveler-Friendly Airports to Improve the Passenger Experience in the APEC Region”.  

In line with the 2014 Macau Declaration, in which APEC Tourism Ministers encouraged TWG to continue to implement the TFI and work to make travel more accessible, convenient, and efficient while maintaining and enhancing secure travel, this project aimed to identify traveler-friendly quality standards that can be implemented across multiple APEC economies to improve traveler friendliness in airports. For a traveler, the airport is a gateway, creates a first impression, and is an economic and cultural showcase.  It is an instrument of hospitality, yet stressful entry processes often create an uncomfortable experience. In some airports across the region, there is a lack of efficiency that affects leisure and business travelers, including long security and immigration lines. The goals of security and hospitality do not have to be in conflict. 

To this end, an analytical study was conducted with the objective of developing best practices, recommendations, and quality standards that, if implemented by airports, will improve the travel experience for passengers as well as overall airport operations. A team of aviation technical experts worked closely with government and private-sector stakeholders of five airports in APEC economies to highlight best practices that exist in these airports that create a welcoming environment for travelers; through this approach, they developed practical guidelines that can be used to enhance the airport visitor experience. The project concluded in November 2016. 

TWG 02 2015:  “Developing the tourism workforce of the future through labour and skills development, certification and mobility in the APEC region”

Following a desktop audit to get an overview of current best practices in APEC in facilitating the growth and skills of the tourism workforce, the TWG had a workshop to discuss the key challenges faced in their respective economies. The main issues include evolving skills challenges for the tourism workforce; industry perception among employees & career pathways; tourism SMEs training & recruitment strategies; strengthening the links between education and tourism; migration and skills recognition; and issues facing women and youth. TWG members identified the main barriers, potential solutions and national priorities for each of these concerns. Results of the workshop will be incorporated into the final project report due in November 2016.

TWG Program for Sustainable and Inclusive Tourism

The APEC Policy Support Unit published its PSU Study on Tourism and Inclusive Growth in August 2016 with a focus on determinants of tourism arrivals (push factors, pull factors), main findings, pro-poor tourism and MSMEs, and policy implications. Empirical evidence show that tourism development has a positive impact on poverty reduction and inclusive growth (i.e., growth in household incomes coupled with improvements in distribution). Tourism contributes to poverty reduction as every 1% increase in tourist arrivals is associated with a 0.12% reduction in the number of poor people in the region. Data also show indicatively that tourism contributes to inclusive growth by providing the poor with more opportunities for employment and entrepreneurial activity.

The PSU Study, endorsed by the TWG, found that enhancing the inclusiveness of tourism requires active policymaking at three levels: destination, economy, and international. Destination-level interventions involve partnerships between residents, operators, NGOs and local authorities at the tourist site itself. At the economy-level, policies on business licensing and permits, skills training, land-use planning, competition policy, and financial sector reform can benefit MSMEs in tourism. Finally, interventions at the international level include regional cooperation on responsible codes of conduct for travel providers, as well as tourism policy coordination, best practice dissemination, and capacity building.

TWG 01 2016A: APEC Workshop on Volun-Tourism Best Practices: Promoting Inclusive Community-Based Sustainable Tourism Initiatives

Volunteer tourism (volun-tourism) is one of the fastest growing trends in travel today with more than two billion US dollars generated each year and more than 1.6 million volunteer tourists travelling the world to improve disadvantaged local communities, whilst exploring and enjoying the natural surroundings.

This project will include a workshop that will discuss the significant positive impact of volun-tourism on communities within the APEC region, including by lifting the standard of living for local rural communities and by elevating indigenous/local peoples’ involvement by creating economic opportunities. This project also aims to build better cooperation between APEC economies by addressing people-to-people connectivity impediments and charting a way forward collectively to make this fast- growing trend more sustainable and inclusive.


Sustainable Development of Tourism Destinations

In early 2014, the APEC Tourism Working Group came up with a report on sustainable tourism concepts, guidelines, indicators and certifications, which were insights from the Sustainable Development of Tourism Destinations study. Aside from tourism sustainable practices and guidelines, the study also resulted in the development of a tourism sustainability tool to provide insight and information on developing a sustainable tourist destination.

Growing Tourism Travel in the Region

Recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, travel and tourism in the region has shown consistent growth and contributed significantly to APEC economies. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism constituted 8.5% of total APEC GDP or USD 3.6 trillion in 2013. In the same year, the sector contributed 8.8% of total employment, and 4.9% of total exports (goods and services). Total APEC GDP contribution is expected to grow by 4.6% per year, adding over 40 million more jobs by 2024.

At the recent meeting of the APEC Tourism Working Group, Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, Chinese Taipei, United States have all reported that their inbound visits from overseas has continued to increase in 2013. The record also indicated increasing outbound tourism travel from APEC economies. According to China, its outbound tourism in 2013 reached 98.19 million. It is also important to note that domestic tourism remains strong. Indonesia noted 248 million movements in 2013.

Travel Facilitation Initiative

Following up on directives by APEC Leaders and Ministers, APEC member economies continue to implement travel facilitation initiatives to promote tourism in the region. A report in 2013 by the World Travel and Tourism Council and United Nations World Travel Organization projected that APEC visa facilitation could lead to 57 million additional tourists and USD 89 billion to GDP, resulting in some 2.6 million additional jobs. Since 2013, Japan has provided visa exemptions for tourists from Thailand and Malaysia. As a result, Japan has seen an increase of tourist numbers by 96% and 53%, respectively, between July-Dec 2013 after the visa relaxation. Japan also has provided a stay period extension for multiple-entry visas for tourists from Indonesia, and introduced multiple entry visas for the Philippines and Viet Nam. Chinese Taipei has also introduced a temporary permit for cruise passengers.

China, Japan, and Chinese Taipei have also introduced Muslim-friendly tourist programs to tap into the tourism market especially from economies with a significant Muslim population. The programs include prayer facilities at international airports, Muslim friendly services, information provision, and halal-food programs.

Improving Skill Standard to Facilitate Regional Integration

The APEC Tourism Working Group has taken the initiative to establish the APEC Skill Standards System. Since 2000, the project has developed almost 400 Skill Standard Units covering general and tourism sectors, the majority of which are based on the Indonesian and Australian National Competency Standards.

TWG has been working on developing occupational skill standards in the tourism industry with the aim of designing a training system that would significantly improve human resource development in APEC’s tourism sector. Regional confidence in training outcomes and qualifications awarded will stimulate intra-regional investment and the flow of human resources in the industry.

The skill standard developed by APEC has been utilized by individual economies as well as other regional organizations such as ASEAN in developing their own scheme of mutual recognition agreements in this area. TWG is continuing work to improve tourism skills in order to facilitate trade and investment in the sector.


Jennifer Aguinaga (Ms)
National Travel and Tourism Office | Policy & Planning
U.S. Department of Commerce | International Trade Administration
1401 Constitution Ave NW Suite 10003 | Washington DC 20230
Grace Cruz-Fabella (Ms)
Program Director
APEC Secretariat


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09 Oct 2017 51st Tourism Working Group (TWG) Meeting Penang, Malaysia
18 Jun 2017 Tourism Working Group Technical-level Meeting Ha Long, Viet Nam
18 Jun 2017 APEC High-Level Policy Dialogue on Sustainable Tourism Ha Long, Viet Nam
24 Feb 2017 Tourism Working Group (TWG) Meeting Nha Trang, Viet Nam
23 Feb 2017 Tourism Working Group (TWG) Workshop on Sustainable Tourism Nha Trang, Viet Nam
23 Feb 2017 Tourism Working Group (TWG) Executive Committee Meeting Nha Trang, Viet Nam