The Mekong Tourism Forum opened May 7 in Siem Reap,
Cambodia, with private and public sector tourism representatives gathering
to assess the opportunities arising from the new road corridors that are
opening up the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS).
In his opening remarks to over 170 attendees at the
opening session today, H.E. Kuosuom Saroeuth, Secretary of State, Ministry
of Tourism, Cambodia, said: “The Mekong Tourism Forum represents an
inclusive, cooperative effort to encourage both public and private sector
participation to represent the GMS as a single destination. We hope to
expand our marketing networks, promote the GMS, and its stakeholders, and
pool our collective resources to create synergy between the six countries of
The Secretary of State told forum delegates that Asia and
the Mekong region were pulling the travel industry out of its recent
recession. He pointed out that Cambodia’s international visitor arrivals
grew in 2009 compared to 2008.
The focus of the forum will be on the benefits to tourism
that occur from new road corridors linking the region. The GMS countries,
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese
provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi, chose the theme “New Roads, New
Opportunities” to pinpoint the challenges and opportunities facing tourism
in the region.
“The time is right for inspirational and innovative cross-border
tourism ideas that utilise the new road links,” said Mekong Tourism
Coordinating Office (MTCO) Executive Director, Mr Mason Florence. “We’re
moving from infrastructure provision to promotion and protection in the GMS.
That’s why the Mekong Tourism Forum will become an annual event again.”
During the two-day forum, delegates will also hear from
Mekong region governments about their plans for cooperation in tourism.
Officials will update the audience on visa regulations, airport developments,
border crossing changes, and new policies and incentives for the industry.
Apart from the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism and the
MTCO, financial support for the Forum is being provided by the USAID-funded
ASEAN Competitiveness Enhancement (ACE) project
ACE Director Mr R. J. Gurley told delegates that USAID
would continue to work with tourism partners to increase cross-border
exchanges of people, goods and services in the ASEAN region, which is
striving to become a fully integrated economic community by 2015.
“ASEAN has identified responsible tourism as a priority
sector for growth and greater integration in ASEAN and Mekong countries,”
said Mr Gurley. “The ACE Project is exploring how we can enhance the tourism
industry’s integration and competitiveness at the regional and sub-regional
The Asian Development Bank wants to see new small and
medium-sized tourism businesses creating wealth for the sub-region. “Our aim
is for responsible community-based tourism enterprises to develop along and
near the road corridors,” said Christine Jacquemin, the MTCO Sustainable
Tourism Development Project Coordinator, a position supported by the ADB.
“New businesses may be small, but they can do a great job to diversify
attractions and bring in money outside the major destinations.”
Leading tour operators, hotel companies, airlines and
development organizations are attending the Mekong Tourism Forum 2010 along
with tourism officials. During the forum at the Angkor Century Resort & Spa
in Siem Reap, panel discussions are being held on “Pioneering Mekong Tourism
Products,” “The Path to Community-based Tourism,” “How Sustainable Tourism
Can Drive Profit,” and “The Road Ahead”. For the full program showing all
speakers, visit http://mekongtourismforum.org/site/forum/programme/. For
further information email to: [email protected] or call the Mekong
Tourism Coordinating Office at: (+66) 2-612-4150.