The Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Tourism Working Group, made up of the six GMS member countries, including the People’s Republic of China, Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, is keen to frame the new GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2025 in terms of “openness”, emphasizing: open skies, open borders, open roads, open waters, open hearts, open minds, and open trade to support inclusive and sustainable tourism in the subregion.
On the eve of Mekong Tourism Forum 2016, hosted in Sihanoukville, Cambodia by the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia—immediately following the Mekong Tourism Digital Boot Camp—nearly 200 delegates attended an open session in which the GMS Tourism Working Group sought ideas for the strategy.
The audience—representing multiple sectors of the travel and tourism industry from all over the Mekong region—raised suggestions to be considered by the GMS Tourism Working Group and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office. These ranged from security and statistics to branding and resilience.
HE Mr. Tith Chantha, Secretary of State, Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia said that the updated tourism sector strategy must be “creative, competitive, innovative, agile, data-based, integrated, equitable and resilient”.
He said the strategy must address global issues such as climate change, human resource development, experience and service quality, infrastructure and destination management. He noted the strategy would be based on an honest analysis of rapidly changing economic, environmental, social, and technological factors.
“Disruptions, such as the rise of low-cost carriers, social media, and the sharing economy are expected to continue,” he said.
“The tourism strategy should also be considered ‘open source’ endeavour,” said Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office Executive Director Jens Thraenhart. “It will draw on the ideas of multiple stakeholders in the region during this year’s Mekong Tourism Forum and future events.”
He added, “A lot has changed since the implementation of the first 10-year GMS Tourism Sector Strategy, which covered 2005-2015. For example, international tourist arrivals have grown 190% over the decade, from some 20 million in 2005 to 58 million in 2015. Myanmar has opened up and become one of the fastest growing destinations in the world. Visa requirements have been eased, new land and sea connections have been developed, and there are now more air routes linking primary and secondary cities in the GMS.”
The Asian Development Bank is providing technical assistance to prepare the updated strategy as part of its support for the GMS Economic Cooperation Program.