The following information on the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement for Tourism Professionals (MRA-TP) was put together using various ASEAN documents which are freely available from the ASEAN website (www.asean.org). In Thailand, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport (www.mots.go.th) also is a source for information on how the MRA-TP will be locally administered as this falls under their jurisdiction. The specific legalities of how Thai labour laws will change have not yet been released by the Thai government; however, the notice that change is coming has been made.
ASEAN, created on August 8th, 1967, stands for the Association of South East Asian Nations and is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ASEAN was originally formed by only 5 of the current 10 ASEAN countries for the purpose of regional cooperation for peace, progress and prosperity in Southeast Asia.
On 9 November, 2012, the MRA-TP was signed in Bangkok Thailand by all 10 ASEAN Member States (AMS). The MRA-TP means in the year 2015, ASEAN has agreed to the mobility of ASEAN Foreign Tourism Professionals (FTP). To be clear, the MRA-TP only applies to individuals originating from AMS. For example, if you are an American, with 25 years of hotel and tourism experience and possessing a graduate or higher level hotel and tourism degree you are still not considered a FTP. However, if you come from one of the AMS and work in the hotel and tourism industry, then you are considered a FTP.
The MRA-TP means qualified FTPs can travel between AMS for work. For example, qualified FTPs from Cambodia can come to Chiang Mai, Thailand to compete with Thais for jobs in the Chiang Mai, Hotel and Tourism Industry. However, they might be required to have some additional qualifications such as being able to communicate in Thai and English if this same skill is also required for Thai applicants. This also means they are eligible for the same pay and benefits opportunities as their Thai counterparts.
Mobility will be based on the FTPs obtaining certification of qualification(s) upon satisfying the assessment requirements of the ASEAN Common Competency Standards for Tourism Professionals (ACCSTP). The ACCSTP refers to the minimum requirements of competency standards in the hotel and travel services agreed upon by the AMS. It is possible for FTPs to already have knowledge of a particular competency of the ACCSTP based on previously acquired experience working in the hotel and tourism industry. If so, passing the competency assessment will earn the certification. However, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sport, if they do not have the requiredknowledge, Thailand is preparing an e-learning system for which Thai FTPs can review the ACCSTP and prepare for the assessment.
Each AMS will have a Tourism Professional Certification Board (TPCB) which is responsible for assessing the FTPs as well as issuing the certification. As mentioned before, standards that will be assessed are agreed upon by ASEAN and not necessarily Thai standards.
At present, 32 jobs (Figure 1) have been identified from 6 labor division for which a FTP can earn certification. Competency for one of the 32 jobs job can be learned in a classroom, learned on the job, or in the case of Thailand, from the Ministry of Tourism and Sport’s e-learning system as mentioned earlier. However, competency must be assessed in order to earn the qualification.
Supply and demand of available positions for one of the 32 different jobs will be maintained by the TPCB in each AMS on the ASEAN Tourism Professional Registration System (ATPRS). Employers will be able to post jobs and applicants can post their qualifications.
These new changes create a lot of questions. For example, what are the details of FTPs being certified? How will all of this work? Is this really going to happen?
There are other possible questions that also should be considered.
- With mobility restrictions lifted on FTP in Chiang Mai and the rest of ASEAN, what effect will the MRA-TP have on the tourism industry in Chiang Mai in 2015?
- Can lessons be learned from other parts of the world which experienced similar labor mobility liberalization?
- Will FTP view other AMS as more attractive places to work and leave Chiang Mai?
- How will hotel and tourism organizations respond to keep valuable labor resources in Chiang Mai and attract FTP from other areas of ASEAN to work here?
This research is part of my thesis for my MBA program at Payap University. However, I feel it is important also for Chaing Mai as a large portion of Chiang Mai’s GDP comes from the Hotel and Tourism Industry. Over the next couple of months, I will try to consider the possibilities before the freer movement of labor comes to Chiang Mai and share that information with whoever would like it.
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