Mekong summit beckons new era

Nine tourism investment experts and project
managers will address the inaugural Mekong Tourism Investment Summit in
Luang Prabang, Lao PDR, March 28-30.Their objective of the Summit is to provide a forum for candid
discussion and concrete action to encourage positive growth and
investment in the tourism sectors in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar,
Thailand, Vietnam, and the Yunnan and Guangxi provinces of China (PRC).

The Summit will raise the profile of the Mekong region as an expanding
tourism destination by linking tourism investors with business
opportunities, promoting win-win partnership models between investors
and local communities, and creating an accessible investment environment
through dialogue, debate and action.

The Summit seeks to attract private sector investors to fund responsible
and sustainable projects throughout the region. The event, hosted by the
Lao National Tourism Administration, will recommend action to overcome
obstacles to growth. Outcomes will be tabled at the Mekong-region
tourism ministers’ dialogue which will take place at the PATA Annual
Conference in Pattaya, Thailand, April 24.

“In the last ten years governments in the Mekong region have started
meaningful collaboration to advance tourism,” said Mekong Tourism Office
Executive Director, Mr Stephen Yong. “The role of the private sector
should now be expanded. The Summit will show how, by analysing
successful case studies and exposing the regulatory and financial issues
that need to be addressed.”

There is strong potential for return on investment as the Pacific Asia
Travel Association predicts steady increases in international
visitor arrivals for the region to 2008. Between 2005 and 2008 the
association predicts international arrivals will increase as follows:
Cambodia 18.2%, Lao PDR 16.1%, Myanmar 11.7%, Thailand 11.2%, and
Vietnam 13.0%.


At the local level, tourism can have a dramatic impact. In Luang
Prabang, for example, tourist arrivals increased from 110,240 in year
2000 to 261,950 in 2005, an increase of 138%.

At the macro level, the World Bank predicts read gross domestic product
growth for 2006 will be:
*      Cambodia 6.1%
*      Laos PDR 7.0%
*      Thailand 4.4%
*      Vietnam 7.5%
*      China 8.6%