Tourism Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia H.E. Dr Thong Khon officially opened the Mekong Tourism Forum yesterday morning. Minister said that in 2011 Cambodia has already hosted the Mekong Tourism Forum in Siem Reap and now it is hosting again in another great destination in the Southern Coast, which is part of the world’s most beautiful beaches connecting Thailand and Viet Nam.
Tourism is a strong driving force for socio-economic development in the region that has benefited all of the neighboring countries. Southeast Asia is the fastest growing tourism region in the world (+6%), the Greater Mekong Sub-region is the fastest growing sub-region in Asia in 2015 and expect to continue its growth. “In 2015 we welcomed 4.77 million international tourists, an increase of 6.1%, while the coastal zone welcomed 0.6 million international visitors and 9.7 million domestic tourists,” said the minister.
“Tourism generates around USD 3.1 billion accounting for 10.5% of Cambodia GDP and providing more than 80,000 direct jobs and other hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs. We expect that by 2020 Cambodia will welcome 7.5 million international visitors, generating USD5 billion. This fact presents terrific opportunities for our countries, as well as international investors, to derive the maximum benefits from this important sector,” he added.
Minister continued, “Today when tourists visit a destination they are no longer just seeking relaxation on a beach. Today’s tourists are seeking meaningful experiences that connect them with local cultures and places. But these experiences must be authentic, and genuine to be successful.
While growth in tourism arrivals, trips and revenues are all desirable goals, we must ensure that this development is sustainable, and brings out the very best that our region has to offer in terms of our heritage, culture, and people.
Bringing tourism experiences closer to local cultures also presents tremendous opportunities for generating local income and conserving local customs and lifestyles. Indeed, by focusing on developing authentic tourism products and experiences we are addressing the demands of the modern current travel market while providing socio-economic development opportunities for local people as well as preserving and enriching local customs and cultures.
To capitalize on this important opportunity, the theme of this year’s Mekong Tourism Forum is “Authentic Experiences Along the Mekong River”. With this year’s Forum’s excellent agenda and your active participation, I am sure that we will together progress on developing and promoting authentic tourism experiences that connect our visitors with the genuine, authentic cultures and lifestyles of the local people. We will ensure that these tourist experiences also support local development while conserving the cultural wealth that defines what is special about our region.
I would also like to recognize the 10th year of support from the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office for their tireless efforts to develop and promote the Greater Mekong Region as a unified and thriving tourism destination, including the Mekong Tourism Forum that we are hosting today.”
Following the opening ceremony on the first day of the forum, ‘Mekong Tourism Digital Bootcamp’ is opened and the future of travel marketing for small and medium sized tourism businesses is discussed. Jens Thraenhart presented Digital and Content strategy of Mekong Tourism, the Bootcamp ended with a Panel titled 'Leveraging Digital Marketing to promote the GMS'. On the second part of the day, Mekong Tourism Sector Strategy open forum took place.