More plans for the Mekong


BANGKOK, 5 June 2015: A new tourism marketing strategy and action plan for the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) will be officially launched at the upcoming Mekong Tourism Forum in Danang, Vietnam during 15 to 19 June.

Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office executive director, Jens Thraenhart, reported at the TTM, Thursday, that the 2015 to 2020 strategy would help to increase tourism arrivals and boost the region’s competitiveness.

It is a rewrite of an earlier plan that covered five years up to 2014.

Preparatory works and consultations on the strategy and action plan were already organised last February at a meeting supported by Asian Development Bank and Thailand Ministry of Tourism and Sports, which involved the participation of tourism leaders from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

inside no 4Under the plan the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office has been assigned the task of developing multi-country tourism circuits and the promotion secondary destinations.

“The creation of themed, multi-country tourism circuits will allow the GMS to anchor lesser-known destinations to GMS tourism icons,” he said.

The GMS is one of the fastest growing regions for tourism in Asia and the Pacific has an average annual growth rate of 17%; a rate far higher the 11% average annual growth recorded by the whole ASEAN.

“There are risks related to an over-concentration of tourism in just a few iconic places such as a loss of identity and authenticity. We must work on alternative strategies to ensure the sustainability of tourism across the region,” he added.

He suggested travellers should spread their tourism dollars to secondary destination, not just concentrate on the iconic and more popular destinations such as Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat or Bagan and Mandalay in Myanmar.

As part of the plan the MTCO will create a new digital platform and introduce a new website at the MTF. The digital platform includes free access to an online knowledge centre and GMS tourism e-library.

The MTCO claims that the GMS managed to record over 50 million international tourist arrivals for the first time last year, with an estimated growth of 1% over 2013. It is remarkable achievement: in 2010, GMS countries welcomed only 31.7 million international tourists.

Thailand’s the top market with 24.7 million visits followed by Vietnam at around 8 million. The figures are bumped up to the 50 million mark by including cross-border overland travel (suspect criteria, often VFR and trader day visits) and travel two Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guang Xi that are members of the GMS. sourced from other parts of China.

GMS raw data on tourist arrivals 2014:
Yunnan 3,020,000;
Guangxi 2,950,000;
Vietnam 7,887,001;
Thailand 24,779,768;
Myanmar 3,081,412;
Lao PDR 4,158,719;
Cambodia 4,502,775.
Total: 50,379,675

But genuine tourism is growing fast in Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia confirmed by the growth of airline traffic and pre-paid holiday bookings.   Vietnam is the only country in the Mekong suffering a decline.  Thailand is enjoying a  dramatic recovery since the last quarter of 2014 after a military coup ended eight years of political disputes and demonstrations.

First quarter tourist arrivals are up by 23.5% for Thailand; by 16.5% for arrivals by air to Myanmar; by 15.4% for Laos and by 3.1% for Cambodia. Only Vietnam experienced a Q1 a decline losing around 11% in foreign arrivals.

The introduction of e-Visa services, or visa-on-arrival facilities, have helped to open up tourism to Myanmar. Vietnam’s tourism performance is probably hindered by its cumbersom visa procedures and would probably benefit from adopting an e-Visa system similar to Myanmar.