Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to create Eco-Tourism super highway

Thailand's borders with Laos and Cambodia are ...
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Thailand, Laos and Vietnam should jointly develop Routes 8 and 12 as eco-tourism routes linking the three countries rather than focusing on the highways as a trade route competing with Route 9.

The Tad Pha Suam waterfall in Bachiang Chaleunsouk district of Champasak, Laos, is a popular site for tourists.

Vitavas Srivihok, the Thai ambassador to Vientiane, said Thailand would raise the issue with Laos and Vietnam to co-operate on eco-tourism as the two routes have good potential for eco-tourism, given the number of caves, waterfalls and other attractive features along the way.

Goods transported to Vietnam via Laos on Routes 8 and 12 currently face problems because the Laotian Customs Department treats them as imported goods destined for re-export, thereby having to pay higher duties, said a transport industry source.

Goods transported via Route 9 are treated differently as it is mentioned in the Cross Border Transport Agreement under the Greater Mekong Sub-region framework and thus eligible for lower duties.

This has made transport costs higher and inspections more strict when the goods were transported via Routes 8 and 12, said the source.

Route 8 links Nakhon Phanom in Thailand with Tha Khak of Khammouane in Laos before linking to Route 12 in Laos to Dong Hoi in Vietnam and on to China. Route 9 links Mukdahan in Thailand via Savannakhet of Laos to Danang of Vietnam.

Mr Vitavas said he hoped that when the third Thai-Lao Bridge across the Mekong River linking Nakhon Phanom and Khammouane opens in November next year, it will help facilitate more tourism and trade on this route.

“Laos doesn’t want to be treated as a passageway [but this will require it to] develop its potential for tourism on Routes 8 and 12,” he said.

The weakness of Vietnam on the two routes is that its tourist spots are not connected to each other, he said.

However, Vietnam is discussing with France a proposal to build a bullet train line from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City which would result in lower volumes of air passengers and freight, said Mr Vitavas.

He said he would like to utilise the economic corridor as a tourism corridor as Laos is the best location for creating a link with four countries: Thailand, Burma, China, and Vietnam.

“Travelling through Laos will be the shortest way. If the roads in Laos can be connected, we can easily travel to all five countries in this region,” said Mr Vitavas.

He also urged the GMS members – Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and southern China – to co-operate on tourism more seriously.

He said better joint promotion of tourism was a good way to help alleviate poverty as foreign tourists like to visit many Asian countries at one time to save costs and time.

“There are few countries in the world that jointly promote regional tourism, such as those in Europe, the Caribbean countries and Pacific island countries,” said Mr Vitavas.

He said that of the total 2 million visitors to Laos last year, 1.3 million were Thais.

To promote tourism in the region, there should be a single visa and shared infrastructure, he added.

Mr Vitavas said the strategy for tourism promotion should include a common market with three to five countries treated as one destination. As well, it will be important to develop the human resources, encourage cross-border facilitation, private-sector participation and tourism-related infrastructure.

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