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PHNOM PENH -- The tourism ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed on Wednesday to strengthen tourism cooperation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a joint statement.
The joint statement was released after a special meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers on the COVID-19 via a video conference, which was chaired by Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon.
"The ministers recognized the urgent need for a strengthened ASEAN coordination mechanism to collectively overcome surging challenges to the tourism sector, one of the worst-hit economic sectors in the pandemic," it said.
The ministers agreed to foster ASEAN coordination in expediting information exchange on travel-related health and other necessary measures undertaken by ASEAN member states, with a view to providing timely and reliable information for inbound and outbound travelers and tourism operators.
They also agreed to enhance closer cooperation in the sharing of information and exchange of best practices among ASEAN member states as well as with ASEAN dialogue partners on the responses to the crisis and on measures to support the tourism sector, it added.
The cooperation will also include implementing clear policies and measures to bolster confidence among domestic and international visitors to Southeast Asia by developing clear standards and guidelines for a safer and healthier work environment to protect workers and communities in the hospitality and tourism-related industries.
They also promised to support the development and implementation of a post COVID-19 Crisis Recovery Plan without undermining efforts to safeguard public health, according to the statement.
Also, they agreed to expedite both micro-and macro-economic policies, providing technical support and financial stimulus, tax alleviation, capacity and capability building, especially digital skills, for travel and tourism stakeholders, it said.
ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi said during the meeting that about 45,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases have so far been recorded in ASEAN, killing nearly 1,800 people.
"This health crisis is taking a heavy toll on our people and our economies-from trade and supply chains disruption, to business closures and job losses," he said. "This is especially true in the hardest-hit sectors of retail, hospitality, transport and tourism, where majority of small businesses operate and thousands of workers are employed."