Mekong countries seek post-COVID tourism rebound

October 18, 2022 - 11:23
Sub-greater Mekong region countries need to join hands together with collective efforts, mutual trust and effective cooperation mechanism in reviving the previous dynamic growth of the Mekong tourism industry as an attractive destination for international tourists.


Participants join a panel discussion at the Mekong Tourism Forum in Quảng Nam Province. Recovering tourism in the post-COVID-19 period was seen as a focus at the forum. Photo courtesy of Phạm Hà 

HỘI AN – Mekong region countries should join hands together in mutual trust and effective cooperation to revive the previous dynamic growth of the regional tourism industry, said the Director of the Việt Nam National Tourism Administration, Nguyễn Trùng Khánh. 

“Việt Nam welcomed more than 110,000 visitors from Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries in the first three quarters of the year. I believe that the number of visitors will continue growing in the near future, as countries in the sub-region are gradually removing entry requirements related to COVID-19, and in turn, facilitating destination connectivity,” he said at the opening ceremony of the Mekong Tourism Forum entitled: Rebuild tourism, Rebound with Resilience, in central Quảng Nam Province on October 12.

Việt Nam was the first Southeast Asian country to completely remove travel barriers related to COVID-19 since the country successfully reopened to international tourism in early March of 2022.

Khánh said Việt Nam welcomed more than 1.65 million international arrivals and 86.8 million domestic tourists, earning total revenue of US$16.5 million.

He said the number of domestic tourists in just nine months of 2022 surpassed the figure for all of 2019.

In boosting effective co-operation among GMS countries, Khánh urged the intra-regional linkages, action plans, tourism projects and co-operation of the Mekong Tourism Strategy 2016-2025.

“It needs to promote effective public-private partnership and build new partnerships and create favorable conditions for tourists and a good environment for businesses, and boost communication and promotion as well,” he said.


Tourists join a bicycle tour in rural Cẩm Thanh commune of Hội An. Sustainable and green tourism has been a new trend of tourism in the post-COVID-19 recovery period. Photo courtesy of Bùi Văn Tuấn 

“The GMS countries should focus on a destination brand with the motto ‘Six countries, One destination’ as part of the GMS Tourism Recovery Communication Plan,” he added.

Khánh agreed that COVID-19 has changed the habit of tourists and it requires the Mekong countries to improve their competitiveness.

He said enhancing product quality, upgrading tourism infrastructure and facilities, and promoting digital transformation and information technology in tourism will play key roles in the post-COVID-19 recovery plan.

The Mekong sub-region hosted more than 3.2 million international visitors in the first half of 2022 amid the re-opening of tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liz Ortiguera, CEO of Pacific Asia Travel Association, also shared the future of tourism – Rethink Travel, Rethink Destination marketing and management.

“The tourism industry has been massively hit by the pandemic. The crisis calls for a need to rethink and reshape tourism towards a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient sector,” she said.

She said three mega-trends – the rise of the conscious traveller, pandemic-era market dynamics and the rise of conscious communities/destinations – could evolve in Asia Pacific, especially the Mekong region.

Suvirmol Thanasarakji, executive director of the Mekong Tourism Co-ordinating Office, said GMS tourism needs to rebuild sustainably and seek how to help stakeholders and businesses recover.

She also called on all participants to share photos of beautiful landscapes and nature on social networks, which are a platform for marketing, international co-operation, and sharing challenges and experiences.

Phạm Hà, CEO of Luxury Travel company, said his cruise business has recovered 50 per cent of its business after a two-year slump due to COVID-19.

“We changed ourselves by restructuring management, technology, digital applications and products to survive the pandemic,” Hà said.

“Domestic tourists helped fill the void of international visitors during 2020-21. Businesses had to operate more effectively in saving costs and keeping the service going,” he said.

Hà said Việt Nam’s tourism should conduct more attractive brand promotions and have a more open visa policy to encourage longer-stay tourists.

Participants at the forum agreed to raise the profile of the Greater Mekong Sub-region as a unified tourist destination, providing an industry-wide platform for the public and private sectors to expand marketing networks.

The forum also marked a significant milestone in the recovery of tourism within GMS member countries, serving as a platform for tourism stakeholders and development partners to reconnect in person, exchange tourism recovery knowledge and experiences, and gather new GMS travel insights from industry experts.

It also brought together regional tourism leaders to rethink the rebuilding of GMS tourism by adopting resilience-based approaches and effectively leverage technology to create a more sustainable and inclusive sector.

Tourists explore ceramic crafts at Thanh Hà pottery village in Hội An. Sustainable tourism is seen as a trend of future tourism in the post-COVID-19 period. VNS Photo Công Thành 

GMS countries also agreed to reinforce sub-regional efforts to foster cross-sectoral collaboration; strengthen engagement and support for micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs); and promote equal opportunities for local employment, capacity-building and knowledge-sharing programmes to enhance the skills of tourism professionals, particularly to develop green, sustainable growth.

Also on the closing ceremony of the forum, Cambodia officially confirmed it would serve as the host of the next Mekong Tourism Forum from March 16-20, 2023 in Preah Sihanouk province.

The next forum, which is given the theme ‘Rethink for Resiliency and Digitalisation’, will embark into a new age of traveling and living in the context of the new normal era of the post COVID-19 global pandemic.

2023 is ‘Visit Cambodia Year’ as the country will also be the host of the 32nd Southeast Asia (SEA) Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games in the spirit of ‘Sports Live In Peace’. — VNS