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Pacific Asia Travel Association

Mekong tourism forum closes with call for liberalisation

The Ninth Mekong Tourism Forum closed with a robust call for visa liberalisation…

The Ninth Mekong Tourism Forum closed with a robust call for visa liberalisation, a reduction in red tape and the need for zoning to separate tourism from industrial developments.

Mr. William E. Heinecke, Chief Executive Officer of the Bangkok-based Minor Group, told Forum delegates that low cost airlines and the proximity of China — the largest potential travel market in the world — would drive further rapid expansion of tourism in the Mekong region. But the industry needed to encourage responsible development, encourage private sector investment, reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, develop infrastructure, improve education, and recognise the importance of the international media, he said.

The CEO of the hotel and leisure-based Minor Group, which has a market capitalisation of US$200 million and 10,000 employees, cited Phuket and Dubai as role models for the Mekong region to follow. If I`m faced with a choice of investing in Phuket, where I have good infrastructure, direct international flights, tax incentives, a labour pool of well-trained people with English language skills and my guests don`t need visas, versus a project in an area where I have none of the above, which one am I going to choose? he said.

The Mekong Tourism Forum is organised by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank and UNESCAP — the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The Forum`s objective is to expand regional cooperation to develop and promote the Greater Mekong Sub-region as a tourist destination.

The 10th Mekong Tourism Forum will be held in Cambodia, March 25-27, 2005.

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