Seeds of new SE Asia tourism bloc planted


THE FIVE South-east Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand (CLMVT) have signalled their intention to grow its clout in the region by highlighting the travel and tourism connectivity in this grouping during their first joint press conference at Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) 2016.

Speaking during the CLMVT Link: Prosper Together media conference, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn highlighted growing arrivals to CLMVT underscores its “potential” as well as “importance to the ASEAN community”.

According to the ASEAN Secretariat’s preliminary figures, nearly 98 million international travellers visited ASEAN in 2015, up 7.3 per cent. The CLMVT members welcomed around 26.8 million arrivals in 2010, rising to 44.42 million in 2014, making up about 42 per cent of total visitation to ASEAN states.

Acknowledging the presence of existing groupings and alliances like the Greater Mekong Subregion, Yutthasak said: “CLMVT countries might be a sub-grouping of ASEAN, but if they can strengthen their unity, it will ultimately benefit the ASEAN platform.”

He added that the CLMVT countries will intensify their joint marketing and promotional campaigns and familiarisation trips, citing TAT’s Two Countries One Destination packages and the Mega Caravan to ASEAN which took place in January 2016 as recent examples of intra-bloc collaboration. Member countries will also cross promote one another at their respective travel tradeshows.

TAT, meanwhile, is already in talks with aviation authorities and airlines to look at launching new routes connecting second-tier destinations such as Mandalay to Chiang Mai, Siem Reap to Koh Samui and Luang Prabang to Ubon Ratchathani to foster linkages within CLMVT.

Also addressing the media conference were Try Chhiv, deputy director general, Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia; Manisakhone Thammavongxay, director of the public relations division, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Laos; Khin Than Win, deputy director general, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar, and Vu Nam, deputy director general, Tourism Marketing Department, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), each of whom shared the effort their respective country is undertaking to develop CLMVT tourism.

But when probed about the implementation of a single ASEAN visa, the biggest hot-button issue that remains on everyone’s mind, the NTOs were not able to give a timeline on the roll-out of a common visa as it involves many parties beyond the scope of tourism.

Whether the CLMVT alliance will become an effective vehicle for cross-country tourism development or just another sub-grouping in South-east Asia remains to be seen.

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