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January 2010                                                                                                     www.MekongTourism.org

Official newsletter of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office

In this issue:

Mekong Waterway Open Up between Cambodia and Vietnam

New Cave Tour Highlight America's Secret War In Laos

HCMC Seeking Larger Tourism Budget

Changing Climate Hurting Myanmar

News in Brief

Tap New Markets at www.ExploreMekong.org

Learn, Share, Engage at www.MekongTourism.org

Go Social with Mekong Tourism


Mekong Waterway Open Up between Cambodia and Vietnam

PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia and Viet Nam agreed to reduce the official restrictions of cross-border navigation on Mekong waterways to allow freedom of navigation on the river between the two countries.

It is expected to increase access to the river system for foreign vessels. Both Governments say that the move will free-up regional and international trade, help avoid delays and make river-based customs and immigration procedures more efficient and straight-forward.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) facilitated the agreement by assisting a legal task force in both countries, with funding provided by the Governments of Belgium and Australia. The agreement will also put in place a range of measures ensuring river traffic safety and regulate the transportation of dangerous goods.

By standardizing rules and regulations, the MRC claimed that there would be a considerable improvement to the safety of the shipping of oil and hazardous liquid cargoes, port services and safe navigation.

The MRC said that improving river transport infrastructure would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions normally associated with land-based transport. River freight produces on average about one fifth of the greenhouse gas CO2 per tonne per km that is produced by trucking goods on the road.

(Source: VietNamNet Bridge)



New Cave Tour Highlight America's Secret War In Laos
VIENGXAY, LAOS -- A new audio tour launched November 18th in a remote corner of Indochina brings alive the story of America's secret war in Laos. Between 1964 and 1973 America, which was at war with North Vietnam, secretly dropped more bombs on neighboring Laos than were dropped on Europe in the whole of World War II.

Over 20,000 people in Viengxay in northeast Laos survived by living in an elaborate network of caves which are now open to the public. Many of the caves had specialist functions such as hospital, bakery, school, shop, theater or government office. A new audio tour of the caves is now available to tourists visiting Viengxay, which is a scenic mix of abrupt limestone mountains and green valleys with rice paddies and hamlets.

The 90-minute audio tour combines eye witness accounts and a narrative that explains the wider conflict of the Vietnam War. Throughout the 1960s and 70s as the cold war dominated geo-political thinking around the world, the 'domino theory' compelled decision makers in Washington DC who were trying to contain communism in Indochina. The consequences were dire for Laotian villagers, most of whom were subsistence farmers.

The audio tour, priced at US$6.50 per person, covers events from late 1950s to the end of the bombing raids in 1973 when peace accords were signed in Geneva. The audio tour also explains the legacy of unexploded war bombs in the fields of Laos today. The Laotian government says unexploded ordnance kills about one person a day in Laos. Many of the casualties were farmers, or their children playing in the fields.

The extensive research, interviewing and translation of the interviews, which are also covered in a new Viengxay website, required international sponsorship. The United Nations World Tourism Organization, the PATA Foundation, SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation), the Australian Embassy in Laos, and private companies in the country all contributed funds or support in kind.

Flights from Vientiane are now available three times per week to Xam Nua, a 45-minute drive from Viengxay. The nearest airport with daily flights from Vientiane is Xieng Khouang, a six-hour drive from Viengxay.

An increasing number of budget travelers have been finding their way to Viengxay from both Luang Prabang and Xieng Khouang on Laos' public bus system. Some tourists prefer to be driven in from the Vietnamese border, 55 kms away. Visas on arrival are now available at Nam Meo, the nearest Vietnam border point to Viengxay. The caves are a 300-km, eight-hour drive from Hanoi. A growing number of tour operators take groups through the region, many passing from Laos into Vietnam and onto Hanoi.

The audio tour has been developed to broaden Viengxay's appeal. A comprehensive Viengxay website has also been developed to mark the launch of the audio tour. The site offers dozens of archive photographs and excerpts of the audio tour.

Mr Saly Phimphinith
Director General
Tourism Marketing and Promotion Department
Lao National Tourism Administration
Email: salyphim@yahoo.com



Paul Rogers, Narrowcasters
Email: progers@narrowcasters.com

Tel: (+61) 2 9327 8897
(+61) 4880 73042



HCMC Seeking Larger Tourism Budget
Ho Chi Minh City will ask for a budget of VND12 billion (US$649,878) to launch a tourism marketing campaign at home and abroad to speed up the recovery of the downturn-hit tourism sector this year.

The proposed budget, VND3 billion ($162,469) higher than that of last year, would be used to finance a series of tourism promotional programs including international travel fairs and road shows, La Quoc Khanh, deputy director of the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, told Thoi Bao Kinh Te Sai Gon Online (Saigon Economics Times Online).

Local tourism officials and businesses will also organize road shows to introduce HCMC's tourism products to potential customers and partners in South Korea, Japan, Spain and Cambodia as well as take part in activities held by the Tourism Promotion Organization for Asian Pacific Cities (TPO). TPO is a city network aiming for development of the tourism industry through cooperation in marketing and promotion.

HCMC's authorities will also team up with national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and the HCMC Tourism Association to organize familiarization trips for travel agents and media from Spain, Germany and Northern European countries to attract visitors and investment into the city's tourism industry.

Khanh said the list of 100 exciting things to do in the city on the "Saigon 100E" online poll will be ready next month to become part of HCMC's tourism promotional programs overseas.

The southern hub welcomed some 2.6 million visitors last year, down 200,000 visitors from 2008. It was the first decline in tourist arrivals of the city since 2003, due to the SARS outbreak.

But the city enjoyed a growth of 13 percent in tourism revenue last year compared to 2008 to VND35 trillion ($1.89 billion). 2.8 million travelers are expected to come to HCMC this year, the same as in 2008.

(Source: VietNews)



Changing Climate Hurting Myanmar
MYANMAR has suffered more than almost any other country in the world from the harmful effects of climate change, according to a report issued as world leaders meet for the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.

A survey issued by the NGO Germanwatch on December 8 placed Myanmar second on a list of countries badly affected by extreme weather events during the period 1990-2008. For the year 2008 alone, Myanmar featured in the top three worst-hit countries, together with Yemen and Vietnam, AFP reported. Bangladesh, Yemen, the Philippines and Honduras also suffered greatly during the period in question.

The study takes into account a range of factors, including the total number of deaths from storms, floods and other weather extremes, deaths per 100,000, losses in absolute US dollar terms, and losses as a percentage of a country's gross domestic product (GDP).

All the 10 most affected countries from 1990 to 2008 were developing countries in the low-income or lower-middle income country group. In total, 600,000 people died as a direct consequence of more than 11,000 extreme weather events, which together caused losses of US$1.7 trillion.

Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar in May 2008, was the most devastating storm in the country's history, causing the death of 85,000 people, with a further 54,000 people missing, the loss of K3.3547 trillion in the public sector and K8.3800 trillion in the private sector, according to official Myanmar government figures.

The report said climate change could seriously hinder Southeast Asia's sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts, and called for urgent action to combat climate change.

(Source: Myanmar Times)



Another Solar Eclipse in China
The astronomical societies of Tianjin and Jiangsu issued a statement December 15, saying that the rare astronomic phenomenon of an annular solar eclipse will occur on January 15, 2010.
(Source: People's Daily Online)

China ASEAN Free-Trade Begins
Beginning January 1, the average tariff on goods from ASEAN countries to China is cut down to 0.1%. Six original ASEAN members will slash average tariff on Chinese goods from 12.8% to 0.6%.
(Source: China View)

Rural Homestays a Real-Life Experience
Rural homestays are becoming increasingly popular as travelers to Thailand search for more authentic and involved travel experiences.
(Source: Bangkok Post)



Tap New Markets at www.ExploreMekong.org
MTCO's consumer-facing website www.exploremekong.org will be a key platform for marketing the Mekong region as a premier tourism destination.
      Through www.exploremekong.org the MTCO offers Mekong-region tourism stakeholders a valuable opportunity to dabble in online distribution for the first time, or expand upon their existing web-based channels.
      Minimum conditions apply for private-sector inclusion in the website's booking engine. Sponsorship and advertising opportunities are also available.
      For more information on the marketing opportunities offered by www.exploremekong.org, please email exploremekong@genaresasia.com.

Learn, Share, Engage at www.MekongTourism.org
 The MTCO's website at www.mekongtourism.org is quickly developing into an indispensable resource for anyone interested in tourism development: development partners, NGOs, students, teachers, policy makers, and the travel trade.
      Bookmark www.mekongtourism.org for convenient access to the proceedings of MTCO's GMS workshops and other resources pertaining to sustainable tourism development, especially the MTCO's priority themes of conservation, poverty alleviation, human resource development, and tourism corridor enhancement.
      To contribute your own tourism development news, opinions, and resources to www.mekongtourism.org, please email content@mekongtourism.org.


Go Social with Mekong Tourism
Help MTCO tap into and expand its social media networks: Follow "Explore Mekong" on Twitter, join our "Mekong Tourism" groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo, and help us represent the GMS on The "Good Tourism" Wiki!



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