Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar nations target 25 million travelers by 2015

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar are seeking to integrate their tourism industries, aiming to ensure that 25 million tourists visit the four countries by 2015 as targeted.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Bounkeut Sangsomsak stressed the point when addressing Lao media after the Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar Senior Officials’ Meeting held in Vientiane last week. The meeting aimed to prepare for the Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar Summit to be hosted by Laos on March 11-13.

During the Senior Officials’ Meeting, representatives from the four countries discussed tourism cooperation and connectivity as well as how to facilitate tourism activities in their respective countries and attract more tourists to the sub-region. Mr Bounkeut commented that visitor numbers had increased rapidly in recent years. In 2012, the Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar countries received over 14.8 million visitors, an increase of more than 19.7 percent compared to 2011.

The four countries discussed how to link their tourism networks and integrate their tourism industries by developing the linkages between their major attractions, which are mostly to be found in their older cities.

“If we succeed in linking the tourism sectors of the four countries, the number of tourist arrivals can increase to 25 million people by 2015,” he said.

Director General of the Tourism Development Department, Mr Soun Manivong, told Vientiane Times yesterday that the target of 25 million tourist arrivals was possible by boosting information exchange between the four countries.

We also need to focus on developing high-quality tourism products, attracting investment in the tourism industry and forming partnerships with other nations and international organisations, he added.

Mr Soun said the number of tourist arrivals in Laos reached 3.3 million in 2012, an increase of 22 percent compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, Cambodia welcomed more than 3.5 million tourists in 2012, Vietnam 6.8 million, and Myanmar over 1 million.

The considerable surge in the number of people visiting Laos includes many from China, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and other Asean nations. “We’re planning on receiving about 3.9 million tourists in 2015 but I think the figure can be higher because Laos is becoming more integrated into the region,” Mr Soun said.

Since Laos has hosted several noteworthy events, such as the 9th ASEM Summit and Asean University Games in 2012, the country’s profile has been raised and there is increasing interest in visiting Laos. The government has opened 23 border crossings, of which 21 issue visas on arrival. Laos also grants visa exemptions for citizens of other Asean countries as well as those from the Republic of Korea, Japan, Russia, Mongolia, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Recently, Lao Airlines opened new flights to China and the Republic of Korea and operated charter flights to and from Japan, aiming to boost visitor numbers from those countries.

Lao Airlines also plans to resume flights between Vientiane and Yangon or Mandalay after a new air service agreement was signed recently.