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Industry inputs sought for Greater Mekong Subregion's future development
Marissa Carruthers, reporting from Mekong Tourism Forum, Sihanoukville, July 7, 2016

CALLS are being made to the industry to help steer tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) in the right direction for the next decade.


More cross-country communication, conservation efforts, open borders, co-operation between governments and the private sector, and a stronger emphasis on providing quality experiences are essential to transform the GMS into a more attractive tourist destination, said industry stakeholders at this year’s Mekong Tourism Forum in Sihanoukville.


The Third Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge over the Mekong river


With the ultimate aim of presenting the GMS – China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – as a single destination focusing on culture, nature and adventure, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office-led (MTCO) initiative has been working for the last decade to enhance the visitor experience and encourage organisations to work together to promote the region.


“We have already achieved a significant amount of multi-country initiatives, combined events and fam trips collaborated between countries,” said MTCO executive director Jens Thraenhart, adding that last year saw the launch of a united Mekong tourism brand along with a variety of social media platforms to promote the GMS as a whole.


“Governments of these countries said (tourism growth) will keep coming,” said Steven Schipani, senior portfolio management specialist of Asian Development Bank (ADB), which is assisting with drafting the strategy. “They need help to better manage the growth here.”


ADB consultant Walter Jamieson, who is also professor and director at Service Innovation Program, College of Innovation, Thammasat University, added that the formation of several regional agencies, such as CLM, ASEAN, GMS and CLMVT, will boost rather than complicate efforts, with many of the organisations sharing masterplans and objectives.


A draft strategy is set to be compiled by end-September, with the final document ready for approval in November. MTCO will host a series of workshops in the six countries during the next two months, with stakeholders and relevant organisations invited to put forward views.


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