‘Two countries, one destination’ plans bring Southeast Asia together

With Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand working together to promote tourism within Southeast Asia, the lands along the Mekong River continue to make the most of their ancient heritage

The sun rising behind the ancient spires of Angkor Wat. Photo: Sam Jam

From the antique spires of Angkor Wat to the thousands of temples studding the sweeping plains of Bagan, Southeast Asia’s ancient heritage has drawn travellers from around the world for centuries. Now, with more and more tourists turning to the lands along the Mekong River to quench their thirst for travel, the nations that safeguard the fading remains of empires long since passed are working together to welcome ever more arrivals from across the globe.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Tourism has announced early plans to establish direct flights between the tourist hubs of Bagan and Cambodia’s Siem Reap, the entrance to the ancient Angkor temple complex, in a “two countries, one destination” campaign. The programme would allow tourists holding either a Cambodia or Myanmar visa to travel directly between the two destinations without needing to apply for separate visas.

Cambodia National Tourism Alliance secretary-general Ho Vandy told local media that the announcement was a welcome step forward after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at creating a more integrated region more than three years ago – a move mirrored by similar agreements of cooperation between Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.

“A single-visa agreement could create a way to bring direct flights between Siem Reap and Bagan,” he told the Phnom Penh Post.

Myanmar Immigration Department director-general Htay Hlaing was more cautious about the proposed changes, which impact various government agencies.

“The duty of our ministry is to protect the country’s safety and security but the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is responsible for the increase in the number of tourists. So our vision is totally different and that’s why we always negotiate for those issues,” he told the Myanmar Times.

Although no timeline has yet been given for the free visa programme’s implementation, the announcement comes amid evolving cooperation between the region’s tourism bodies.

It is this cooperation that will be on display this week at the 2017 Mekong Tourism Forum in Laos’ historic city of Luang Prabang. Now in its third decade, the forum – hosted by the Laos Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism – will bring together thought leaders from both the private and public tourism sectors under the theme of “prosper with purpose”.

The 2017 Mekong Tourism Forum will be held in Luang Prabang from 6 – 9 June 2017. Reserve your place, and register for free at www.mekongtourismforum.org.

 

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