Tourism officials have said Southeast Asian countries can attract much more tourists if they work together and ease their immigration and visa policies. 

Representatives from the tourism ministries of six regional countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – attended a conference in Kien Giang on Sunday. The event coincided with the launch of the 2016 National Tourism Year in the southern province.

According to the World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals in Southeast Asia rose 6 percent to 103.1 million last year from 97.3 million in 2014.

Indonesia deputy tourism minister I Gde Pitana said that half of the visitors came from neighboring countries within the region.

There should be efforts to promote tourism among the 10 members of the regional bloc ASEAN, he said.

Indonesia currently grants visa exemptions to visitors from 169 countries and territories and is planning a no-visa policy for all tourists. The country expects to receive 5,000 cruise ships by 2019 bringing revenues of US$500 million.

Cambodian tourism minister Thong Khon said that simplifying regional immigration regulations should be prioritized.

It would surely attract tourists within the region and from other countries who want to explore the landscape and the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the region, he said.

According to the official, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand have agreed to launch a new tourism corridor connecting Bangkok, Rayong, Trat, Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep, Phu Quoc and Ho Chi Minh City.

Russian ambassador to Vietnam Konstantin Vasilievich Vnukov proposed new tours that go through multiple destinations in different ASEAN countries.

ASEAN members should also grant more visa exemptions and consider reducing air tickets for flights from Russia, he said.


Updated on Monday April 11, 2016