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A roundup of ASEAN latest tourism news

Luc Citrinot, eTN  Jan 23, 2011

PHNOM PENH (eTN) - A roundup of latest trends and news from Southeast Asia collected during ASEAN Travel Forum (ATF)

Cambodia puts emphasis on its southern coast
As Siem Reap/Angkor is turning into a mature destination with a market share of 44% of all international arrivals, the Cambodian government increasingly turns its eyes to the coastal area. So far, the 400-kilometer coast along the Gulf of Siam receives 162,000 international tourists a year, a mere 5% of all total arrivals. The coastal area has some 60 hotels offering close to 3,000 rooms, the majority of them being in the coastal city of Sihanoukville (45 hotels with 1,945 rooms).

There are for now, however, few hotels offering world-class standards: Cambodia’s Sokha Group is present with the Sokha Beach Resort, the only large resort in the area, while the Independence Hotel, a property opened in 1963, was renovated two years ago and reopened as a 4-star property. There are huge development projects taking place along the coast with Sokha involved in the Sokha O’Chheuteal beach and casino in Sihanoukville and the Sokha Bokor Resort, both being scheduled for 2012. A Japanese project is also taking shape in Sihanoukville with residence apartments and a hotel. The Song Saa resort, an exclusive 25-villa property will open by the end of the year on an island off Sihanoukville, while in Ream, Accor will open a M-Gallery property by 2013.

A crucial development remains air transport links. There are no regular flights for now to Sihanoukville, with Cambodia Angkor Air offering only charter flights from Siem Reap.

Malaysia looks at rail tourism
With some 25 million foreign travelers in 2010, Malaysia is today ASEAN’s most visited destination. But the country is now moving away from quantity tourism to propel its tourism industry towards high-yield tourist markets until 2020. Among the policies put in place, the country wants to focus more on green and sustainable tourism.

“It is our duty to preserve our nature resources by keeping our air, our waters, and soils unpolluted,” explained James Dawos Mamit, Deputy Minister of Tourism at the ATF. New initiatives are also launched to let visitors experience a more authentic Malaysia. After emphasizing homestay last year, the ministry now wants to foster rail tourism, the best way to discover the rural landscapes of the country without speed. Rail services to smaller cities would then be ideal to complement homestays’ programs. “We recognize, however, that we must also monitor the quality of train services for travelers and are talking with state rail company KTM to improve the visitor’s experience. We [will] then introduce a special tourist train with panoramic windows, as well as better food and service on board,” explained Musa Yusof, Director of International Marketing Southeast Asia at Malaysia Tourism.

Laos prepares its Visit Year 2012
Laos estimated that it received in 2010 over 2.3 million travelers. Initial numbers for the nine first months of the year points to a growth in total arrivals of 23%. Thailand remains the largest source of travelers with a market share of 60%. This situation is unlikely to change soon, as ties between both countries continue to grow.

Both countries are linked currently through two cross-border bridges between Vientiane and Nong Khai, as well as between Savannakhet and Mukdahan, and two new bridges are now getting financing from China. They will link Nakhon Phanom in Thailand to the Lao province of Khammouan, as well as between Chiang Khong and Huay Xai. The first is scheduled for completion at the latest by 2012 and the second one by 2014.

In parallel, the government continues to simplify travel formalities for visitors into the country. “We now have 23 international immigration check-points with 20 offering visa-on-arrival. We extended also the permitted length of stay from 15 to 30 days for travelers using visa-on-arrival facilities,” told Sounh Manivong Director of the Lao National Tourism Authority while attending the ATF.

Lao authorities continue to move rapidly forward as it prepares to host large tourism events. Prior to the launch of its Visit Year Laos 2012, the country will welcome this year the Mekong Tourism Forum (May 27 and 28) in Pakse (Southern Laos), “an exciting emerging new destination that we are glad to highlight to the world’s community” according to Mason Florence, Head of the Mekong Tourism Office. Luang Prabang will play host to a “Trail of Civilization” meeting next October. “Trail of Civilization” looks at ways to enhance Buddhist-related sites across ASEAN countries. And finally the Visit Year Laos will find its conclusion with the ATF being hosted in 2013 in Laos, most probably in Vientiane.

A roundup of ASEAN latest tourism news

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