south-east-asia-mapThe Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) -comprising Cambodia, Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam- was the fastest growing subregion in Asia and the Pacific in 2013, showing a 17% increase in international tourist arrivals compared to 2012. This was more than double the growth rate in Asia and the Pacific and significantly higher than the 11% increase in ASEAN.Since 2002 international tourist arrivals in the GMS have grown at an average annual rate of about 12%. By country, international tourist arrivals are growing fastest in Myanmar a result of the extensive political and economic reforms that began in 2011. While Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have a modest combined share (about 15%) of international arrivals, it is important to note that each received over 200 million domestic visitors in 2013. The number of annual domestic trips in Thailand (over 100 million) and Viet Nam (over 35 million) is also significant. In 2013 the GMS welcomed 51.7 million international tourist arrivals, representing a 3% share of the global market. Over 60% of international visitors originate in Asia and the Pacific, led by China, Japan, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and Viet Nam. In 2013 China was the first or second largest source market for Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, and the third largest source market for Laos. Thailand was the top source market for Laos and Myanmar, and visitors from Viet Nam formed the largest share of international tourist arrivals in Cambodia. Long haul source markets from Europe comprise approximately 20% of international tourist arrivals and those from the Americas about 7%.

Cambodia

International tourist arrivals to Cambodia reached 4.2 million in 2013, a 17.5% increase compared to 2012. Viet Nam was the largest generating source market, comprising 20% of international tourist arrivals, followed by China (11%), the Republic of Korea (10%), Laos (10%), and Thailand (5%). Overall, in 2013 international tourist arrivals from ASEAN member countries increased by 21% when compared to 2012. In addition to the Republic of Korea, other significant medium- and long-haul source markets are Japan, which accounted for 5% of international tourist arrivals, the United States (4.4%), France (3.1%), and the United Kingdom (3%). The fastest growing markets from a substantial base are Laos, with a remarkable annual increase of 63% to 0.4 million arrivals in 2013; China, up 39% to 0.46 million arrivals; and the Russian Federation, up 32% to 0.13 million arrivals. International tourists that visit as part of a package tour stay on average for 4.6–4.9 days, while free independent travelers stay for 6 days. Average daily spending across all international markets is about $120 per day. The international airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap together receive 48% of all international tourist arrivals, 50% enter the country through overland borders, and 2% enter by water. The busiest border checkpoints are Poipet (Cambodia–Thailand) and Bavet (Cambodia– Viet Nam), which each account for about 13% of international tourist arrivals. Not surprisingly, Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor are the most popular destination, welcoming 44% of all international tourist arrivals in 2013. In comparison, Phnom Penh received 39% and no other destination received more than 6%. Leisure was the main purpose of visit, followed by visits to friends and relatives and business.

Laos

In 2013 Laos received 3.77 million international visitors, an increase of 13.5% compared to 2012. Thailand accounted for 54% of international arrivals, Viet Nam 24% and China 6.4%. The top long haul markets are the United States (1.6%), France (1.39%) and the United Kingdom (1.1%). The fastest growing markets from a substantial base are the Republic of Korea (52%), Viet Nam (29%), Germany (25%), and China (23%). Long-haul visitors stay on average for 8.4 days, and spend $70 per day, while regional tourists entering with a passport stay for 3 days on average and spend about $50 per day. In 2013, 1.2 million visitors or 33% of all reported arrivals were lower-spending day trippers, mainly entering through land borders at Vientiane, Savannakhet, and Luang Namtha. The most visited destinations in 2013 were Vientiane Capital with 1.4 million visitors and  Savannakhet with 1.16 million visitors, followed by Vientiane Province, Champassak, and Khammouane with about 0.4 million visitors each. Luang Prabang received 342,000 international visitors. The main purpose of travel among all markets is leisure, and main interests are nature, culture, and religious monuments.

People’s Republic of China (China)

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yunnan Province

China received 55.7 million international tourists in 2013, a 3.5% decrease compared to 2012. Guangxi Zhuang welcomed 2.13 million international tourists, equal to 3.8% of all international visitors to China. Yunnan received 5.31 million international tourists, or 9.8% of China’s international visitors. In 2013 Guangxi Zhuang recorded a 30% decrease in international tourist arrivals compared to 2012 while Yunnan saw international arrivals rise by 35%. International tourists in Guangxi Zhuang mainly visit the historic town of Yangshuo, the scenic Li River, and karst landscape around Guilin. In Yunnan the main attractions are ethnic villages and botanical gardens in Sipsongpanna, Kunming, and the historic towns of Dali and Lijiang, and Shangri-la.

Myanmar

In 2013 Myanmar recorded an impressive 93% rise in international tourist arrivals to 2.04 million. Thailand was the largest source market, accounting for 16% of overnight visitors, followed by China (10%), Japan (7.6%), Korea (6%), the United States (6%), and Malaysia and France (4%). These are also the fastest growing markets. The average length of stay for overnight tourists is 7 nights and average daily spending is $145 per day. It is important to recognize that there were 1.14 million day trippers in 2013 that mainly entered the country from Thailand at land borders in Myawaddy and Thachileik. Yangon receives 94% of international overnight visitors, 27% visit Bagan, and 15% visit Inle Lake. Mandalay, another popular destination for international tourists, has direct scheduled flights from Thailand and accounts for 27% of international overnight tourists. The main purpose of travel is leisure and business. Most international tourists travel independently (67%) and are interested in culture and history (98%), food (90%), and nature/visiting protected areas (83%). About 17% of international tourists use the services of an inbound tour operator.

Thailand

International tourist arrivals to Thailand reached 26.7 million in 2013, a 19.6% increase compared to 2012. China was the largest generating source market, accounting for 17.6% of international tourist arrivals, followed by Malaysia (11.7%), the Russian Federation (6.5%), Japan (5.7%), the Republic of Korea (4.8%), and India (3.8). Other significant source markets are Singapore (3.4%), the United Kingdom (3.3%), the United States (3.0%), and Australia (3.4%). In 2013, the fastest growing markets from a substantial base were China, with arrivals up by 69% to 4.7 million; the Russian Federation, up 32% to 1.7 million; Myanmar, up 33% to 0.17 million, Indonesia, up 32% to 0.58 million, and Viet Nam, up 27% to 0.7 million. International tourists that visit as part of a package tour stay on average 4.2 days and spend $165 per day, while free independent travelers stay for 5.2 days and spend $158 per day. Suvannabhumi International Airport in Bangkok is the main air gateway to the GMS and received 15.3 million international tourists in 2013. Over 2.1 million international tourists entered Thailand at Don Meuang International Airport and 0.9 million entered through the land border with Lao PDR at Nong Khai. Top destinations in 2013 were Bangkok with 18.5 million international visitors, Phuket (8.3 million visitors), Pattaya (7.1 million visitors), and Chiang Mai (2.3 million visitors). The main purpose of visit is leisure, medical treatment, and business.

Viet Nam

Viet Nam received 7.57 million international tourists in 2013, an increase of 10.6% compared to 2012. China accounts for 20.8% of international arrivals, the Republic of Korea 10.2%, Japan 8.2%, and the United States 6.4%. Other important medium- and long- haul markets are Malaysia (4.2%), Australia (4.2%), France (3.1%) and Thailand (3.3%). In 2012, the fastest growing markets from a substantial base were the Republic of Korea (30.7%), Malaysia (28.3%), Laos (27.2%), Thailand (23.5%), and Japan (19.7%). International tourists that visit as part of a package tour comprise 48% of all international arrivals and stay for 10.8 days on average, while free independent travelers’ average length is stay is 12 days. European free independent travelers have the longest average length of stay (15.6 days). In comparison, package tours catering to Asian markets stay for 7.8 days on average. The most popular destinations are Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Long Bay, Hanoi, and Da Nang. The main purpose of travel among all international markets is leisure, business, and visiting friends and relatives. Culture and nature are the main attractions. Vietnamese cuisine is also an important tourism asset.

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