KUCHING, Malaysia – The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak officially declared open the 33rd ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF 2014), ASEAN Advancing Tourism Together, at the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly Building, here today.

The colourful opening ceremony and welcome dinner bearing the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 theme of Celebrating 1Malaysia, Truly Asia was also graced by the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, ASEAN Tourism Ministers, the Minister of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, as well as some 2,000 guests including 879 sellers from ASEAN countries, 462 international buyers and a host of foreign and local travel trade media.

Malaysia is honoured to host the ATF 2014 for the sixth time. I hope that this forum will chart the strategic directions to expedite the growth and development of tourism in ASEAN and enhance our collaboration to project ASEAN as an attractive and multi-faceted single destination, said Dato Sri Mohd Najib.

The theme, ASEAN Advancing Tourism Together, chosen for the ATF 2014 is certainly appropriate and timely. It reinforces the commitment of ASEAN Member States to work hand in hand to achieve the vision and goals of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2011 2015, added Dato Seri Mohd Najib.

Highlights of the opening ceremony included the joint launching of The Magical Gardens of ASEAN coffee table book by Dato Sri Mohd Najib and ASEAN Tourism Ministers, along with the Chief Minister of Sarawak, the Minister of Tourism and CultureMalaysia, and Sarawak’s Minister of Tourism and Housing Development.

The Magical Gardens of ASEAN is produced by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, with contributions from the respective ASEAN Member States to promote ASEAN Parks andGardens. The effort goes in line with ASEAN’s objective to promote sustainable economic development through the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage in the region.

Malaysia also took the opportunity to showcase its cultural diversity, where guests were treated to an hour-long Malaysia Truly Asiaв cultural performance while enjoying “1Malaysia Truly Asia Fusion Food.

The opening ceremony featured traditional dances and music of Malaysia’s multi-racial community, besides performances byrenowned international violinist, Dennis Lau and local songstress, Dayang Nurfaizah, who hails from Sarawak. Guests were also feted to a musical performance of ASEAN songs.