Senior tourism officials from the five nations in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region said there was a possibility for Cambodia, Lao PDR., Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand – or CLMVT – to be packaged and promoted as a single destination given that the five countries share similarities as well as have their own distinctions on cultural and natural heritages.
Addressing the firstly-held joint press conference “CLMVT Link: Prosper Together”, which took place during the Thailand Travel Mart Plus Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub-Region 2016 (TTM+ 2016), senior tourism officials from the CLMVT said that the Sub-Region ‘can’ prosper together by collaborating on tourism activities.
Mr. Try Chhiv, Deputy Director General of Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism called for a sub-regional effort to enhance the branding of CLMVT not just for the similarities that the five countries share, but also the uniqueness of each country.
Ms. Manisakhone Thammavongxay, Director of the Public Relations Division, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lao PDR. suggested for all five countries to have a mutual understanding of the benefit of the CLMVT packages under a ‘five-country-one-destination’ ideal. In reaching that, she noted there was a need to increase transport connectivity among the five countries.
Ms. Daw Khin Than Win, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar agreed, saying that there is a need to encourage more low-cost carrier connections between countries as well as to open more checkpoints with enhanced flexibility. “A joint road show is also ideal,” she said.
Mr. Vu Nam, Deputy Director General, Tourism Marketing Department, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism said apart from increasing transportation connection between all countries, the region should look at encouraging more cooperation between tour agencies among the five countries to promote joint tourism products.
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Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand made three recommendations. He said, “Firstly, we must set a common goal to promote the CLMVT as a single destination. Secondly, we should look at improving connectivity and linkages, and thirdly, we should look at turning our common goal into actions.”
Tourism is among the top revenue generators for Cambodia, Lao PDR., Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. Over the years, the five countries have recorded continuous growth in tourist arrivals, tourism receipts as well as tourism investments.
In 2015, visitor arrivals to Cambodia grew by 6.1% to 4.78 million, to Lao PDR. up 13% to 4.7 million, to Vietnam up 0.9% to 7.9 million, Myanmar up 52% to 4.68 million and Thailand up 20% to 29.8 million. More growth is still to come as intra-regional transportation linkages grow and the national tourism organisations press ahead with joint marketing activities.
Mr. Chhiv said that in Cambodia, travel and tourism was now one of the four main pillars of economic growth with 620,000 direct jobs and contributing US$ 3 billion (13%) to the GDP. He said the target was for travel and tourism to generate 7.5 million to 8 million visitor arrivals, creating one million direct jobs by 2020.
Ms. Manisakhon said that Lao PDR. was continuing to convert its land-locked status into a strategic advantage. She said that there were now 10 border checkpoints with Thailand, eight with Vietnam, and one each with Cambodia and Myanmar. There was air accessibility to airports in Lao PDR. from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Daw Khin Than Win of Myanmar noted that airline access to her country was on the rise. Seven airlines are flying from Thailand and two from Vietnam. There are now four international checkpoints with Myanmar and Thailand and one with Lao PDR.
Mr. Vu Nam of Vietnam said that the island of Phu Quoc was being designated with a special status to promote tourism with visitors getting 30-day visa free access whether arriving by air or sea.
He said that there are now 13 flights a day from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok; 17 flights a week between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, daily flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, and five flights a day from Hanoi to Siem Reap.
In addition, there are now daily flights from Hanoi to Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Yangon, and 10 flights a week from Ho Chi Minh City to Yangon. New charter flights have been launched from Vinh (Nghe An) to Bangkok from 8 June, 2016.
TAT Governor Mr. Yuthasak discussed the strong emerging potential of the Asian Highway which would make it possible to drive from Chiang Khong in Northern Thailand all the way through Lao PDR. to Kunming in China, and from Mawlyamvine in Myanmar across Thailand to Da Nang in Viet Nam.Another highway route will lead from Nakhon Phanom in Northeast Thailand through Lao PDR. to the Vietnamese capital city of Hanoi.
All this infrastructure connectivity would make it possible to undertake numerous joint projects; such as, motor caravans as well as activities like ASEAN festivals, bazaars, spiritual events, even cruise and river-based tourism.