ASEAN Destination Tourism Website Mired In Controversy
Politics and tourism make strange bedfellows at best but the launch of Southeastasia.org has created controversy by tourism officials in Myanmar. The site offers both destination information, hotel, tourism, cultural and even educational opportunities in the 10 country alliance which consists of Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar and Indonesia.
At the root of the complaint are allegations by the Myanmar contingent that commercial booking engine WEGO.com which operates on the site offering hotel bookings has ownership connections to the global organization New Corp. Concerns have been expressed over Western influenced media involvement which is an outspoken opponent of the current military controlled junta and allegations of human rights abuse. Now the ASEAN Tourism Association has been drawn into the fray back of some NGO funding from USAID for the site.
It's an unfortunate situation as all too often matching Government sponsored tourism initiatives back of the cold hard commercial sensibilities of functioning businesses ultimately lead ventures like the website into virtual 'one trick pony's. All gloss and no commercial viability. Using WEGO as a base to generate a site where you can find destination info, go to a reader forum and then book hotels makes absolute common sense. Though in a nutshell the face remains in Asia that for many marketing initiatives its ultimately best to leave these in the hands of the private sector versus running the risk of running the often precarious gauntlet of Government bureaucracy.