Mekong Tourism Sector Strategy 2016 2025
In 2004-2005, at the request of the GMS TWG and with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a GMS Tourism Sector Strategy (GMS TSS) was formulated. The strategy envisioned the GMS as a single tourism destination, with strong focus on culture, nature and adventure. The intention of the strategy was to inspire not only the governments of the subregion, but also all its stakeholders, particularly in the tourism industry, to promote a sustainable development of tourism, respectful of its people, and cultures, enhance and protect its unique natural and cultural heritage, and fostering poverty alleviation schemes. Finally, the strategy delivered a truly unique Mekong brand of tourism that showcases the subregion’s incomparable beauty, diversity, and spirit, and brings its people a better quality of life.
The updated 10-year Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2025 represents the opportunities and challenges in one of the fastest growing regions in the world.
During the decade covered by the GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2005-2015, we witnessed dramatic changes. Myanmar saw a boom in international tourist arrivals. Air and overland access is now able to connect some of the most remote locations. More streamlined visa issuance has made exciting multi-country journeys possible for more people. More luxury hotels throughout the GMS and luxury vessels on the Mekong River and other waterways are attracting affluent consumers who are looking for high-end experiences.
The GMS is of course very close to the largest and fastest-growing source markets of the 21st century, China and India. And the rising wealth of the rest of Asia, especially Southeast Asia, provides tremendous opportunities for future growth. This is all in addition to the existing long-haul markets of Europe and North America. While regional travel is more sustainable in that it is less susceptible to external shocks, it does requires different products, services, and experiences.
Information and communications technology (ICT), including the internet, social media, and mobile devices, has transformed how consumers are researching and purchasing products, including travel & tourism. Travellers now have access to information in real-time, and can also share their experiences “in the moment”. Low-cost local SIM cards and Wi-Fi access is readily available; practically everywhere now! And peer-to-peer platforms allow travellers and local micro entrepreneurs to connect and transact on local tours, dining, transportation, accommodation, and many other services in what is dubbed the “sharing economy”.
These trends have fuelled the desire of travellers to engage in authentic local experiences. This is a positive for inclusive tourism, where the economic value that tourism brings spreads out to secondary destinations and into communities where micro, small and medium businesses have the opportunity to benefit. While that prospect is exciting, and aligned to the mandate of our regional tourism cooperation framework, it also brings challenges that have to be managed.
One of the biggest challenges is that with growth comes increased responsibility. We are aware of existing problems, including infrastructure, sanitation, security, human resource development, and child safety concerns. In addition, the next 10-year GMS Tourism Sector Strategy has to more seriously consider how to protect and preserve the unique cultural heritage of the region; perhaps by focusing on yield rather than arrival numbers. Responsible and sustainable tourism practices must remain our primary concern when developing programs and influencing travellers and tourism industry.
Our digital collaboration platform, MekongTourism.org, is aligned to the Experience Mekong Tourism Marketing Strategy 2015-2020. It enables various programs designed to encourage industry stakeholders to contribute their knowledge and expertise. We invite you to join us in our journey; collaborate with us to realise sustainable growth through responsible tourism development in the GMS.
Please download the GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2025 via our MekongTourism.org e-library.
As a reference, to download the previous GMS Tourism Strategy documents, please click on the cover page of the document: