Single title

Cultural Corridor and Tourism Development in Southeast Asia in the Post- COVID-19 Pandemic Era

by Nguonphan Pheakdey, Dr. Sok Serey
In this chapter the cultural corridor of ASEAN and the tourism development in Southeast Asia after the pandemic are investigated. Policy recommendations to promote ASEAN cultural linkage and tourism development are provided.

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most diverse regions with varied population densities, as well as economic, social, cultural, and religious differences. The region has hundreds of ethnic groups, languages, and cultures (Baker et al. 1996; King 2008). ASEAN Member States have made efforts in creating a peaceful coexistence and harmony among the different cultures, religions, ethnicities, and languages at both national and regional levels (Takagi 2009). An epistemic culture of local Southeast Asianists have contributed to the construction of Southeast Asia as a socio-cultural unit (Menkhoff et al. 2011). In the last few decades, regional social and cultural development have changed rapidly from a longstanding interest in cultural artefacts and ways of life to cultural groups and societies (Bunnell et al. 2005). Unfortunately, Southeast Asia is associated with numerous threads of history and cultures and common geopolitical concerns (Woetzel et al. 2004). Moreover, the interconnection and associations between national and regional political, economic, and social establishments and norms have shifted Southeast Asia into a contested region (Chheang 2013).
The ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) focus on regional economic, political, and cultural integration. In addition, ASEAN members have cooperated in the arts and culture sectors. As a result, the region has promoted its cultural vibrancy and dynamism (Ahmad 2006). At the ASEAN anniversary celebration held in Kuala Lumpur in 1997, the Heads of States of the ten nations adopted the ASEAN Vision 2024 to enhance stability and peace, economic growth, human development, and cultural heritage. Cultural advancement is considered one of the fundamentals of the ASEAN Community’s dynamism to establish a harmonious region (ASEAN Secretariat 2020a). With coordination by the Jakarta-based Secretariat, ASEAN member countries have managed significant cultural heritage through national regulations, regional instruments development, media dissemination, ASEAN civilisation studies, and cultural tourism development (ASEAN Secretariat 2009). In mainland Southeast Asia, the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Program pays specific attention to building strategic alliances, in particular with ASEAN and ASEAN+3 (ASEAN, plus China, Japan, and South Korea) (ADB 2018).
Today, cultural corridors have played a significant role for ASEAN countries in enhancing dynamism in the ASEAN Community. The Strategic Plan for Culture and Arts (2016–2025) aims to promote regional identity, culture, and heritage with a strengthened ability to innovate and participate in the global community. One of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) blueprints is to forge solidarity and unity in the ASEAN region by building a common identity (ASEAN Secretariat 2016). Cultural corridors are important bonds that link cultural nodes with human activities. They play an important role in tourism development, cultural heritage conservation, and promotion of a sense of place (Bozic et al. 2016). Hoppert et al. (2018) believe that a cultural corridor is an integrative concept for integrating the conservation of cultural and natural resources.

The ASCC deals with cultures, languages, and religions, emphasising other common values in the spirit of unity in diversity and adjusting them into reality, potentials, and challenges (ASEAN Secretariat 2009).
Researchers have paid great attention to the East-West corridor, a conceptual tool for identifying standard cultural processes across mainland Southeast (Ishii 2009). A principle of the project East-West Cultural Corridor aims to explore the historical dynamics of cultural exchanges in Thailand and medieval land-based communication networks in the Thai-Myanmar trans-border regions, ancient roads connecting with Angkor, and Northeastern Thailand along the Mekong River basin from the Dvaravati to Ayutthaya periods (Shibayama 2017). Moore (2013) has drawn upon his model to study the histories of sites and their continuities with present traditions. The present proposals are to establish cultural corridors and tourism development in Southeast Asia in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era. Accordingly, this chapter examines cultural diversity in Southeast Asia by focusing on World Heritage Sites, the importance of cultural values, the impact of COVID-19 on cultural conservation and tourism development, and ASEAN’s cultural linkages and tourism development promotion in the post-COVID-19 era.