Ten Key Tourism Issues in Mekong Region


(c) Mekong Tourism Forum 2011

Willem Niemeijer, group CEO and founder of Khiri Travel, recently presented the10 most pressing issues for tourism in the Greater Mekong Region as part of the run-up to the 2011 Mekong Tourism Forum starting May 27. In order for sustainable growth in this area to proceed, Niemeijer argued that the countries of the Mekong would need to address these following issues:

Political stability in Thailand and the Thai-Khmer border conflict. Given Thailand’s status as a transit hub for the entire region, problems like airport closures and unrest in Thailand can shut down tourism across the entire area.

Easier visas. As policy stands now, multiple visas are needed to access multiple countries of the Mekong, which discourages visitors from planning multidestination trips. A more unified visa policy, Niemeijer argued, would allow for greater tourism across multiple nations.

Better airport management at Suvarnabhumi. Bangkok’s international airport is a transit hub for the entire region, and problems like failing to assign gates to arriving flights, long immigration queues, and scams discourage tourists before they’ve even properly arrived.

End aviation protectionism. The excessive market share of Bangkok Airways, particularly in regions like Koh Samui and Siem Reap, stifles competition and keeps prices artificially high.

Respect for green issues in rural areas. Nature conservation is a boon for tourism, but plans to develop ecologically valuable areas like the Nam Ha National Protected Area and the Bolaven Plateau threaten these potentially valuable attractions.

Respect for green issues in urban areas. Tourists and residents alike love green spaces in urban areas. Dedicated pedestrian zones, reduced noise and reduced particle pollution would go a long way toward making cities like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City even more attractive to visitors.

Bold branding. A successful brand, such as South Africa’s “It’s Possible” or Egypt’s “Where It All Begins” could capture the imaginations of a wide range of potential visitors.

Less red tape. Business regulations, government approvals, licensing contradictions, delays and kickbacks make investing in this area a tough proposition. Transparent and simple regulations would aid investment and spur growth.

More trust. If the countries of the Mekong adopt a regional focus will spur tourism and growth faster than each country relying on itself.

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