Mekong tourism chiefs seek more co-operation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 April, 2005, 12:00am

Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos have worked together for a decade to encourage overseas visitors, but tourism authorities say greater co-operation is needed.

Vietnam's tourism arrivals are expected to cross the 3 million mark this year, while Cambodia's arrivals are projected to grow 15.3 per cent, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata).

The organisation behind such efforts - the Agency for Co-ordinating Mekong Tourism Activities - has been consistently underfunded, said Alfredo Perdiguero, project economist for the Asian Development Bank.

'Completely reorganising [the agency] ... is the only chance for the organisation's survival,' Mr Perdiguero said in the Pata conference's daily newsletter.

As a result, the tourism authorities of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Yunnan province have each contributed US$15,000 to form a new co-ordinating agency in 2006.

Phornsiri Manoharn, deputy governor of international marketing at Thailand's tourism authority, acknowledged her country's 11.65 million visitors last year might not have come because they were interested in the Mekong region.

But as transportation becomes easier within the region, Ms Phornsiri hopes visitors to Thailand will be lured to neighbouring countries too. 'A number of significant roads, highways and other forms of infrastructure are coming up in the GMS [Greater Mekong sub-region],' Ms Phornsiri said.

Guangxi province has joined the Mekong co-ordinating agency, hoping to boost tourist interest. But Asian Trails group managing director Luzi Matzig said at a Mekong working group meeting in March that promoting Guangxi as a destination in the Mekong region might be counterproductive as the river does not flow through it.