Mekong minus Thailand gateway
BANGKOK, 23 July 2012: Thailand tourism industry will face more pressure from a neighbouring countries, which are moving towards establishing a single visa that does not include Thailand as its gateway destination.
The CLMV scheme is an initiative of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Described as a single visa, it is due to be officially launched this September at Ho Chi Minh City’s International Travel Expo.
The visa will allow foreign tourists to travel to any of the countries in the bloc using a single visa.
Thai Travel Agents Association president, Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, said on the sideline of the ASEAN Economic Community seminar late last week that Thailand tourism industry would be marginalised by the four ASEAN member countries as it would encourage visitors to use the Vietnam gateway to visit all four destinations ussng just one visa.
“The Thai’s government has to address this issue, as it has been slow to respond and Thailand is in danger of losing its prominence as a gateway to the Mekong region.”
“Nowadays, the country’s tourism industry is driven by the private sector, not the government sector. A single visa that excludes Thailand will shift travel patterns as it will cut visa costs and allow visits to up to four countries on one visa during one trip the region.”
The Thailand industry has shown little progress in responding to challenges in the past five years because of threats from political infighting in the country, he said.
To compete with the neighbours,the Ministry of Tourism and Sports should play a key role leading the industry. However, the 10-year-old ministry is still not productive because its personnel, including the minister, do not have enough knowledge to guide this business forward the association president argued.
“The tourism ministry needs the right man for the job. At present, everyone from the minister to the staff at the ministry lack a clear understanding of what they should do.
Mr Suthiphong added: “Thailand’s tourism ranking in ASEAN will decline as competition through the AEC 2015 will intensiy.”
Association of Thai Travel Agents president, Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, said: “Introduction of a CLMV single visa is an initiative that will isolate Thailand.”
The integration will benefit the four countries as they have similar roots and background particularly culture, tradition and attractions.
“Myanmar is a rising star and it will attract many tourists now that sanctions have been lifted.”
Association of Domestic Travel president, Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, said Thailand need to recognise the CLMV visa will strengthen competitiveness and we need to clean up our act and end corruption.
“Corruption was a big barrier to developing the tourism industry. Suvarnabhumi Airport was an example. It is riddled with troubles, especially traffic congestion and all because of poor management.”
The government should have moved faster to establish two airports in Bangkok to improve traffic flow. Especially, Don Mueang Airport should be fully opened for international traffic to accommodate passengers, he suggested.