Tourism ministers of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia sat down over ways to enhance regional cooperation in tourism at a seminar held on Phu Quoc Island on Sunday.
The seminar, held on Vietnam’s largest island located in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang, was co-chaired by the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the People’s Committee of Kien Giang.
Speaking at the seminar, Deputy Tourism Minister of Indonesia I Gde Pitana cited a piece of information by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which said half of the foreign tourists visiting ASEAN countries came from other ASEAN member states, highlighting the need for policies to promote tourism among the group.
ASEAN is short for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is a political and economic organization whose members include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The minister said the Indonesian government had enacted visa exemption policies for travelers from 169 countries and territories, and was aiming at becoming a “visa-free destination for tourists.”
At the same time, the Indonesian government is attracting visitors by sea with a policy of “time-limited exemption from all entry procedures,” hoping to welcome 5,000 cruise ships by 2019 and attract US$500 million in economic benefit from sea travel.
Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon spoke of the importance of facilitating freedom of movement between ASEAN member states, as it enhances the nations’ appeal to regional and foreign tourists who would like to experience the natural and cultural heritage of ASEAN countries without having to go through tedious entry procedures.
According to Minister Thong Khon, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand have already established travel routes to exploit the potential of the southern tourist corridor through Bangkok, Rayong, Trat, Koh Kong, Shihanouk Ville, Kampot, Kep, Phu Quoc, and Ho Chi Minh City.
Joining the seminar as a representative of one country with a large number of visitors to the ASEAN region, the Ambassador of Russia to Vietnam K.V.Vnukov proposed a study and introduction of tour packages that allow tourists to visit multiple ASEAN countries on the same trip.
The Russian ambassador added that Vietnam should broaden its policy on visa exemption, as well as looking for ways to reduce airfares between Russia, Vietnam and other ASEAN countries.
On Sunday evening, the opening ceremony of the 2016 Phu Quoc – Mekong Delta National Tourism Year was held in Duong Dong Town on Phu Quoc by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the People’s Committee of Kien Giang.
This year’s National Tourism Year is expected to include 65 events organized from January through December focusing on the cultural heritage exclusive to the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.