PHUKET: Leading figures from a host of international tourism destinations dotted around the world placed sustainable marine tourism at the top of the agenda for the 18th Inter-Island Tourism Policy Forum (ITOP) at the Laguna Phuket resort complex today.

Present at the meeting were representative members from Phuket, Hainan, Jeju, Okinawa, Bali, Cebu, Penang and Sri Lanka.

“The topic of this year’s forum is supporting marine tourism, with a focus on marine resources management; marine travel and transportation; and rescues at sea,” Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut explained.

“The sharing of information at this level is very valuable, as we can learn from the expertise and experience of all the members. Hopefully, we can use what they have to offer to make Phuket a better, more sustainable marine tourism attraction.”

Governor Maitri highlighted how members shared their differing policies and experiences for assisting tourists affected by accidents and disasters; developing better security; and improving general safety for tourists.

“Another positive development from this forum is that the delegates have agreed to explore developing routes for tourists to travel among the ITOP members’ areas to promote ‘inter-island tourism’,” Governor Maitri said.

Deputy Director Yantai Foreign Affairs and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office Wan Hong said that he looked forward to developing “friendship links” with ITOP members.

“We should invite local government and education officials to attend [the ITOP Forum next year]. They will understand what we are doing, and if they have any ideas, they can present them to us,” Mr Wan said.

Danny Law Henry Kiang, of Penang, said that he too looked forward to developing more comprehensive links with Phuket, Penang’s sister city (story here).

“Phuket and Penang are very similar in terms of culture, landscape, traditions and types of people,” Mr Kiang told the Phuket Gazette.

“We are ‘sister cities’, and this is a good opportunity for effecting positive changes in our thinking of how we develop our cities.”

With the symposium over, the ITOP delegates at the forum will join a sightseeing tour of Phuket tomorrow.

— Woranut Pechdee