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ASEAN Reveals it’s Secret Weapon to Usher in the AEC

There’s a degree of excitement on the ground in the hotel industry across SE Asia. “The AEC is coming! – The AEC is coming!” It seems that the ASEAN Economic Community has been ‘coming’ for a lifetime now, but when you stop and speak with the people who it would be directly affected by it – and possibly benefiting from it, their understanding of what the AEC will actually mean for them is still quite hazy.

What jobs will and will not be covered under the AEC agreement? What will the local implementation of each country look like of the framework set out by ASEAN? What are the logistics of actually finding and hiring people from partner countries? How can employers be certain of the qualifications and skills of the people that they are bringing in to work?

On the 14th of January 2016, founder Wimintra Jangnin and veteran hotelier Tom S’Prayoon will be holding a one-day event in Bangkok especially for hotel owners, operator executives and, general managers and hotel human resource professionals to help shed some light on exactly what the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) means for hotels and how they can make the most of it.

As part of the preparations for the event, we had the opportunity to meet today with Special Officer to the ASEAN Secretariat Mr. Eddy Krismedi Soemawilaga who is one of the key players in the design and implementation of the AEC.

Our meeting coincided with a seminar that was being held in Bangkok entitled ‘ATPRS 2nd Regional Workshop’ where the AEC’s secret weapon was being revealed and taken for a test run for the first time with industry leaders, along with government representatives from all over the ASEAN region. Hotelintel was fortunate to take part in the workshop and we are excited to be able to give our readers a glimpse of what is install for January 2016 if all goes to plan. The workshop is part of Phase II of the ASEAN Australia Development Cooperation Program (AADCP) which was being facilitated by the primary contractor for the project, NetReturn Consulting Pty Ltd.

Introducing the ASEAN Tourism Professional Registration System (ATPRS)

The ‘ASEAN Tourism Professional Registration System’, or ‘ATPRS’ for short is still a bit of a mouthful, and perhaps the ability to say the full name in English should be included as one of the testing criteria for candidates.

ATPRS Background

(Spoiler alert: as with any government / NGO / UN / ASEAN type programme, the following information contains copious amounts of acronyms. I hope you’re sitting down for this).

In 2009, ASEAN Tourism Ministers (ATM) adopted a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Tourism Professionals that would support the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

The arrangement was to facilitate the mobility of certified ASEAN Tourism Professionals (ATP *Be prepared to hear this term a lot over the coming months) across ASEAN Member States (AMS).

That sounds nice in theory. To make it all work, standards and vehicles for ensuring those standards needed to be put in place. There are three resources that allow this to happen. They are:

  • ASEAN Common Competency Standards for Tourism Professionals (ACCSTP)
  • Common ASEAN Tourism Curriculum (CATC)
  • Regional Qualifications Framework and Skills Recognition (RQFSRS)

ATPRS Framework Diagram 1

In order to be able to make all of this happen, they realised that they needed a very comprehensive vehicle to do it. That’s where the ASEAN Tourism Professionals Registration System or ‘ATPRS’ comes in.

The Key Players and Roles of the AEC Implementation

There are five key roles when it comes to implementing the ATPRS. They are:

  1. People looking for work (ATPs)
  2. Training entities (schools, training institutes)
  3. Trainers
  4. Assessors
  5. Businesses looking to hire (Industry)

The ATPRS must be able to carry out the following roles:

  1. Registration of all of the above players
  2. Certification of ATPs
  3. Match-making – Connect ATPs with ASEAN-wide employers and vice-versa
  4. Provide training materials, toolboxes and other resources to Training Providers (TPs)
  5. Generate revenue

How does the ATPRS Work?

The following diagram is an overview of how the system should work:


The whole ATPRS functions by means of a very robust online platform that is a mixture of Linked In, Jobs DB, Coursera and Tinder. … Ok, not Tinder, but I just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention. It must be noted that the entire system is solely in English. Soemawilaga mentioned that because English is the base language for all communication between ASEAN nations, the requirement for solid English skills is a basic pre-requisite for anyone using the system and therefore right now the only language that the system will be available is in English.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.01.41

The way it works is that ASEAN works with local schools and training organisation to provide all the curriculum and tools that they need to train and accredit people in their own countries.

Local Training Organisations will provide facilities for trainers and also be the gateway for job-seekers (ATPs).

What Jobs Does the AEC’s ATPRS Cover?

One of the big questions everyone in the hotel is asking is what jobs will and will not be covered. When speaking with Soemawilaga, he mentioned that ASEAN has provided the framework and the principles for the AEC. It is up to each member country to interpret the framework and implement it in their own countries as best possible according to the laws and policies of each country.

ASEAN Tourism Curriculum and Qualifications Framework

** ****(Level 1)****Certificate III (Level 2)****Certificate IV (Level 3)****Diploma (Level 4)****Advanced Diploma (Level 5)**
**Food & Beverage**Certificate II in Food & Beverage Service (Waiting)Certificate III in Food & Beverage Service (Waiting)Certificate IV in Food & Beverage Service (Waiting)Diploma of Food & Beverage Service (Supervision & Administration)Advanced Diploma of Food and Beverage Service (Management)
** **Certificate II in Food & Beverage Service (Beverages)Certificate III in Food & Beverage Service (Beverages)Certificate IV Food & Beverage Service (Beverages)
Certificate IV Food & Beverage Service (Supervision)
**Food Production**Certificate II in Food Production (Cookery)Certificate III in Food Production (Cookery)Certificate IV in Food Production (Cookery)Diploma of Food Production (Supervision & Administration)Advanced Diploma of Food Production (Management)
** **Certificate II in Food Production (Patisserie)Certificate III in Food Production (Patisserie)Certificate IV in Food Production (Patisserie)
Certificate III in Food Production (Operations)Certificate IV in Food & Beverage (Operations)
**Front Office**Certificate II in Front OfficeCertificate III in Front OfficeCertificate IV in Front Office (Guest Services Supervision)Diploma of Front Office (Supervision & Administration)Advanced Diploma of Front Office (Management)
**Housekeeping**Certificate II in HousekeepingCertificate III in HousekeepingCertificate IV in Housekeeping (Guest Services Supervision)Diploma of Housekeeping (Supervision & Administration)Advanced Diploma of Housekeeping (Management)
**Tour Operation**Certificate II in Tour Operation (Guiding)Certificate III in Tour Operation (Guiding)Certificate IV in Tour Operation (Guiding)Diploma of Tour Operations (Operations)Advanced Diploma of Tour Operation (Management)
** **Certificate IV in Tour Operation (Eco Tours)
Certificate II in Tour Operation (Reservations & Ticketing)Certificate III in Tour Operation (Reservations & Ticketing)Certificate IV in Tour Operation (Reservations & Ticketing)Diploma of Tour Operation (Supervision & Administration)
Certificate III in Tour Operation (Sales & Finance)Certificate IV in Tour Operation (Sales & Finance)
**Travel Agencies**Certificate II in Travel Agencies (Reservations & Ticketing)Certificate III in Travel Agencies (Reservations & Ticketing)Certificate IV in Travel Agencies (Reservations & Ticketing)Diploma of Travel Agencies (Supervision & Administration)Advanced Diploma of Travel Agencies (Management)
** **Certificate II in Travel Agencies (Sales & Service)Certificate III in Travel Agencies (Sales & Service)Certificate IV in Travel Agencies (Sales & Service)
Certificate II in Travel Agencies (Operations)Certificate III in Travel Agencies (Operations)Certificate IV in Travel Agencies (Operations)

Download PDF: AEC ATPRS 52 Job Qualifications

Once an ATP gets accredited for a particular qualification, it is added to their ATPRS profile. The ATPRS profile also indicates what studies the ATP is currently undergoing.

Job Advertising and Matching

HR departments will then place their ads and may also browse for the potential talent right within the system. The way the system is now, employers must select the qualification criteria that they are looking for and the system will provide a list of candidates. It is not possible to just browse through the entire database of ATPs. Employers can only see a subsection at a time based on their specific search criteria.

ATP’s can also see the job advertisements and salaries on offer around the region and apply for positions.

Great System – Is it Plausible?

It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss candidly with people from different ASEAN member countries in their own languages how they felt about the system and whether or not they felt it would work in their countries.

It was unanimous that the system that has been built is indeed a wonderful system and in theory, if it can be implemented the way that it has been intended to be implemented, we would all be living in an ASEAN utopia.

The reality might not be as easy.

Some of the questions that were raised by participants of the workshop included:

Will this cause any negative impact on economies due to a brain drain of the smartest people all heading to whatever country is paying the most?

The system seems to be based on the Australian Certification system. Given that westerners have designed this, will it work in a truly Asian context?

What about the cultural and language elements of people moving to a new country to work?

Will governments really allow foreigners to take up such positions risking losing the political support of their constituents if they are seen to be facilitating the taking away of jobs from their countrymen?

Language and Culture – The Potential to Make or Break the System

In my line of work, I will often get called into a company at the point of crisis usually caused by a misunderstanding to a gap in language and / or cultural understanding. Thailand is a very interesting example. One of my clients called me into their hotel as they were facing a mutiny by their Thai staff.

The hotel had recently employed a number of Filipino, Burmese and Indian staff to man one of their F&B outlets. The foreign workers made up just over half of the F&B staff. The English language skills were stronger with the Filipino staff and they were perceived by management to be providing a higher level of service than the locals. Some were promoted and this started to cause angst amongst the Thai staff. After not very long, the rift widened between each national group working in that F&B outlet and several people left and many more threatened to leave.

In this instance, I was asked to facilitate discussions and workshops using English, Thai, Hindi and some Burmese to try and find out what was really going on on the ground and work out a solution to the malaise.

This is one of many situations where cultural understanding and preparation could have prevented such a difficult and potentially damaging situation from occurring in the first place.

Right now, there are no cultural or linguistic elements in the training, accreditation or preparation steps for the ATP’s.

Soemawilaga mentioned that it is only once the system is up and running that it will truly be put to the test and as different problems arise, they will be ready to find solutions to them as best as possible.

From the look of everything I saw and experienced today, the system is a robust one and covers all the main bases that one would expect such a system to cover.

The official launch of the system is slated for the end of January 2016. will be running a workshop for hotel industry HR professionals in Bangkok on the 14th of January. We will be having speakers from ASEAN and many other segments in the industry, all with expertise that will help your hotel’s transition into the new AEC environment a (hopefully) painless and profitable one.

For more information, contact