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Mekong Forum explores ways to grow sustainable tourism


A 5-day forum on developing and promoting sustainable tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), the fastest-growing tourist destination in Asia and the Pacific, gets underway in Da Nang, Viet Nam on 15 June, 2015 according to a media release on 10 June.

Public and private sector participants representing the tourism industry, civil society, academia, the media, and development organizations, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), are taking part in the 2015 Mekong Tourism Forum, an annual event showcasing tourism trends and developments in the sub region.

This year’s theme focuses on building partnerships to unlock the full potential of developing the GMS as a single tourism destination. The GMS includes Cambodia, Yunnan Province, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

“Tourism is flourishing in the GMS, but with that growth comes the need to shape the industry in a way that increases benefits to local communities and protects the environment,” said Steven Schipani, Senior Portfolio Management Specialist in ADB’s Lao PDR Resident Mission. “ADB is involved in a number of GMS tourism initiatives, as we see well managed tourism as a powerful tool to support poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth.”

In 2013, international tourist arrivals to the GMS reached nearly 52 million, up 17% compared to 2012, with Myanmar growing the fastest. Since 2002, international tourist arrivals have risen at an annual average rate of about 12%, giving the GMS a 3% share of the global tourist market.

The surge in visitors has put strains on tourism resources and the environment, so the forum—backed by GMS member countries and the Bangkok-based Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office—aims to highlight practices that enhance the environmental, social, and economic benefits of tourism. This year’s gathering will touch on food-, adventure- and community-based tourism, cross-border cultural routes, resource-efficient accommodation, and the use of social media to market businesses and engage travellers. 

It will also feature lively discussions, including one led by CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg on how to position the GMS as a ‘must-visit’ single tourism destination. A high-level panel will examine how tourism practitioners can contribute to the protection of the sub region’s unique heritage and make tourism growth more inclusive. The forum—free of charge for all travel and tourism industry professionals—will develop a “white paper” for state tourism ministries and private sector practitioners, outlining a path for the industry’s future.

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