Four destinations turn five
HO CHI MINH CITY, 18 September 2012: The 8th International Travel Expo Ho Chi Ming City (ITE HCMC 2012) under Four Countries, One Destination banner hosted at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre closed over the weekend on a high note of regional cooperation .
There was also a promise to extend the four-country focus to include Thailand that will change the theme to five countries, one destination.
It was the second year that the event focused on promoting the four Mekong Region countries; Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. They are referred to as the CLMV bloc, promoting themselves under the banner “Four Countries, One Destination.”
While Thailand participated in early ITE shows, it was absent in 2011, when the CLMV bloc was established and lost its pole position in regional co-operation.
This year, Thailand returned to the ITE with exhibitors, buyers and trade visitors and is expected to join the bloc at a ministerial level next year.
Also in 2011, TAT’s Thailand Travel Mart Plus failed to attract both Vietnam and Cambodia participation. However, the differences have been solved and all five countries will be present at both the ITE and TTM.
HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism deputy director, La Quoc Khanh, told TTR Weekly although this year, the tourism ministerial meeting was represented by just four countries, Thailand has indicated its minister will be present next year.
“Originally ITE was only a platform for Vietnam and then it grew to include Laos and Cambodia. Myanmar was firmly involved in 2011. So, next year we will invite Thailand, too, to complete the lower-Mekong Region cover…We can develop products and promote tourism to the region,” said Mr Khanh.
City mayors of all the five capital cities will be invited next year. The first city mayors meeting was held at this year’s ITE, but only three mayors attended out of five invited. Both the mayors of Yangon and Bangkok cancelled.
This year’s ITE for the first time featured outbound tourism under one roof with CLMV outbound tour operators and international sellers participating.
The show featured 362 international buyers from 47 countries – a mix of supply markets from Asia, Europe, Americas, Australia and Africa such as the USA, China, India, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Russia, Kazakstan, Hungary and Indonesia.
Of the total buyer attendance, 181 (33 markets) were fully hosted buyers, similar to the number last year and 47 were CLMV buyers.
Exhibiting organisations stood at 230 including sellers from CLMV bloc, Thailand and sellers for outbound tourism from 14 countries such as Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Maldives, Egypt, Malaysia, India, UAE and Hong Kong.
Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Ho Chi Minh Office showcased Thailand focusing on four niche markets – ecotourism, weddings and honeymoons, golf and health and wellness. There were three hoteliers, four tour operators and five attractions sheltering under the TAT roof.
Under the 4 CODE slogan, Vietnam positions itself as the prime gateway. Vietnam Airlines is planning to increase its presence in the sub-region and expand long-haul routes in order to transport visitors directly from source countries, by-passing Bangkok, the traditional gateway of the Greater Mekong-sub region.
Tour companies are already selling programmes linking these destinations. Overland connections between the three countries – Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are in place, while air access to Myanmar has improved.
Vietnam Airlines launched flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Yangon in March last year. Myanmar Airways International will also resume flights to Phnom Penh in October.
To facilitate the flow of tourists, the bloc has agreed to implement a single visa for the CLMV to promote the 4CODE, but it still requires preparatory work and will largely depend on the success of a pilot project between Thailand and Cambodia.
Tourism Authority of Thailand director, Ho Chi Minh Office, Chutathip Chareonlarp attending the ITE commented that to maintain its gateway role, Thailand needed to upgrade standards, clean up scams and look after its resources much better.
“Everyone wants to be a gateway to catch attention. Thailand has been one in the past, but we cannot stand still. We need to always raise standards of our infrastructure and services, solve the scams and security issues.
“Countries in this region have rich natural and cultural resources and if they have just opened up for tourism they have an advantage of being undiscovered and unspoiled. So, we can’t be arrogant thinking we will always be number one,” she said.
Meanwhile, Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has back-tracked on its insistence that the ITE should rotate between the capital and HCMC.
Mr Khanh said the conclusion was that Hanoi would get another travel show because ITE HCMC is well established in its eighth year and “because Vietnam is a vast country, it can have two events annually”.
“The event in Hanoi is likely to be called International Travel Fair Hanoi and it would be different from ITE as it would concentrate on consumers,” said Mr Khanh.
Another platform in the northern region will benefit the tourism business in the north as it is convenient for them. ITE HCMC features mostly provinces in the southern part, but also participation from the north has been growing, the deputy director said.
There were 12 northern provinces out of 26 presenting at the show, this year.
The trade event of ITE HCMC 2012 will be held 13 to 14 September and will open to public on 15 September.