The four nations have agreed to join hands in investment, promotion, personnel training, product development, and transport connectivity in a bid to accomplish this goal.

This was announced by senior tourism officials of the four countries last Friday, after the first CLMV Tourism Ministerial Conference and the signing of a cooperation deal in 2013-2015. Among the targeted 25 million international tourist arrivals, some four million could come from regional countries, up from the 1.9 million recorded last year.

Thong Khon, Cambodian minister of tourism, said this is an ambitious target, so the four countries’ tourism authorities must boost cooperation to make the region an attractive destination for tourists. “We need to develop and promote our products, and call for support of the governments for connecting the transport systems to lure visitors,” he said.

In an effort to attract tourists, CLMV are considering a common visa scheme for international tourists to travel through the four countries. Thereafter, CLMV will work with Thailand over this scheme.

“We are preparing to test issue a common visa for those visiting Cambodia and Thailand. Once this plan produces positive results, we can extend this to the five countries,” said Thong Khon.

Hoang Tuan Anh, Vietnam’s minister of culture, sports and tourism, said that under the cooperation agreement for the 2013-2015 period, the four nations would be jointly organizing tourism promotion events in Europe, the U.S., South Korea and Japan, and participating in some other international events.

The ministers have proposed the governments accelerate the process of building infrastructure for tourism development.

“For ten years now, Vietnam’s Government has spent trillions of dong building tourism infrastructure and this process is still underway. The other countries, such as Cambodia, have done the same. This effort will help the tourism authorities in the region achieve the goal,” he said.

After the first CLMV Tourism Ministerial Conference held in HCMC, the four countries will take turns to host the annual event. The 2013 event will take place in Cambodia.

Speaking to the Daily on the sidelines of the tourism ministerial conference, Thong Khon said the number of tourists from Vietnam to Cambodia would hit a record high this year, at around 800,000 versus 660,000 in 2011.

Vietnamese tourists mainly travel to Cambodia by road, with the favorite destinations being Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. At present, some 239 passenger coaches travel across the seven border gates between the two countries a day.

“In the first seven months of 2012, we got 400,000 visitors from Vietnam. This is the biggest source market for Cambodia,” he said.

Cambodia’s tourism authority has made strong investments to attract tourists from Vietnam. At the 2012 International Travel Expo in HCMC, the neighboring country spent about US$150,000-170,000 setting up a 135-square-meter booth, featuring a lot of activities for partners and customers.

Cambodia was the biggest delegation joining the expo, with 170 people and 27 tour operators. Last Thursday, Cambodia organized an event called Cambodian Night to introduce the country’s culture and tourism, and receive hundreds of Vietnamese and foreign travel firms.

Thong Khon added around 400,000 Cambodians came to Vietnam last year, mainly for medical treatment.

By Dao Loan - The Saigon Times Daily - September 17,2012