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Ho Chi Minh City showcases river tour to Laos, Cambodia; mulls joint package

Friday, September 11, 2015, 11:13 GMT+7
Ho Chi Minh City showcases river tour to Laos, Cambodia; mulls joint package
Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian officials are seen during a river tour in Ho Chi Minh City on September 10, 2015.

Ho Chi Minh City officials on Thursday took their Cambodian and Laotian counterparts on a river tour in a bid to impress them with their new travel product, and to discuss the possibility of launching a transnational tour along the Mekong River.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

Representatives from the Cambodian and Lao tourism authorities boarded a wooden boat in Nha Be District that took them to the suburban district of Can Gio, shortly after attending the opening ceremony of the 11th International Travel Expo Ho Chi Minh City (ITE HCMC 2015).

The foreign guests appeared to greatly enjoy the new experience, as they continuously snapped the peaceful and beautiful landscapes along the river, especially when the boat entered the Dam Doi tourism area, surrounded by mangrove forests.

Among the guests was Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mak Vansitha, Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism of Laos Chaleune Warinthrasak, and Khom Douangchantha, director of international relations with the Lao National Tourism Administration.

Nguyen Thi Hong, deputy chairwoman of Ho Chi Minh City, who accompanied the international guests, said the Can Gio river tour is one of the new products the city is focusing on to promote and develop local tourism.

“This is a typical travel product of Ho Chi Minh City,” she said.

“Today’s tour is a chance for us to experience the new product and discuss the possibility to connect such river tours of Vietnam to those of countries in the Mekong River region.”

The Mekong River flows through six countries, including China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Ho Chi Minh City administration has tasked its tourism department with studying the feasibility to operate river tours along the Mekong River to Laos and Cambodia, Hong added.

“We are trying to turn the plan into reality early next year,” she said.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mak Vansitha (L, 1st) and Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism of Laos Chaleune Warinthrasak (R, 1st) visit a museum in Can Gio. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Upon arrival at Vam Sat, another attraction in Can Gio, Vansitha, the Cambodian official, said such a river tour can easily win over tourists, especially those from Europe, as it is original and attractive.

Douangchantha, who represents the Lao National Tourism Administration, said the river tour to Can Gio should be promoted to reach more international tourists.

The Laotian official said most of the international visitors to his country are from Australia and the EU, but it will be less attractive if they only spend the entire vacation in Laos.

He suggested launching joint travel packages that allow vacationers in Laos to go straight to Vietnam to enjoy the beaches, ecotourism or river tours there.

Douangchantha is confident that such a plan can be realized soon thanks to several bilateral tourism cooperation agreements reached among Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Tourism officials from the four countries have agreed to continue working to attract tourists to each other as well as visitors from other markets, according to the agreements they signed on Wednesday.

Douangchantha said Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian officials should discuss the specific issues to solve in order to be able to open a transnational river tour.

He also suggested the three countries adopt the single-visa policy Cambodia and Thailand are applying to create more convenience for international tourists.

Under the policy known as ACMECS single visas, Cambodia and Thailand allow nationals of 35 countries to enter both nations for the purpose of tourism under the same visa.

ACMECS is a political, economic, and cultural bloc consisting of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

The bloc members have concurred to turn the region into an attractive destination for global vacationers under a campaign called “Five Countries, One Destination.”

Last year Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar collectively welcomed 19.6 million international tourists, up 11.4 percent from 2013, according to data published at the ITE 2015.

The total tourist arrivals to the ACMECS countries in 2014 were 44 million.

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