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Pattaya Daily News

14 June 2011 :: 12:06:39 pm 54949

Sleepy Southern Laos Border Town Hosts 12th Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF)

PAKSE, LAOS – The southernmost Lao province of Champassak raised its profile on the tourism map of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) by hosting the successful 12th Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) between May 27-28.
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As the first international tourism event held here, the MTF will boost traffic along the East-West and North-South corridors of the South East Asian Highway as well as to the Northeast Thailand, especially the neighbouring cross-border province of the provincial city of Ubon Ratchathani.

It will also help increase the landlocked Lao PDR’s fast growing visitor numbers which have tended mainly to flock to the growing capital Vientiane or the northern UNESCO heritage tranquil town of Luang Prabang and additionally the recently awaken border town of Savannakhet across the the Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge in Mukdahan province, Thailand also know as the new Thailand to Indo-China gateway.

About 300 delegates from around the world attended the MTF, including tour operators, media and several consultants and representatives of international aid agencies.

Since being held for the first time in Bangkok in 1996, th

e MTF has made the rounds of the primary hub cities of Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Yunnan province of Southern China. It is now being held in the region’s secondary cities, with Siem Reap playing host in 2010 and Chiang Rai in 2012.

The MTF is a successful product of many years of efforts in the 1990s by the Asian Development Bank, the Pacific Asia Travel Association, the UN World Tourism Organisation and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Although the UNWTO is no longer involved and UNESCAP shut down its tourism unit in 2007, their years of painstaking efforts to build upon the opening of the first Thai-Lao Friendship bridge in 1994 and create tourism infrastructure, ease facilitation and establish transport linkages are bearing fruit today.

Visitors to Laos have surged from 700,000 in

2000 to 2.5 million in 2010, generating USD 381 million. Arrivals in the first three months of 2011 were up 20 percent over the same period last year.

A major conduit has been the construction of the 1,380-meter Lao-Japan bridge across the Mekong river in Pakse. Champassak province is located at the crossroads between north-south Route 13 highway and east-west highways connecting Pakse with Ubon Rachathani as well as the southern provinces of Salavan, Xekong and Attapeu.

The province is also home to Wat Phou, a pre-Angkor temple complex that has been declared the second UNESCO World Heritage site in Laos.

According to the provincial governor Mr Sonexay Siphandone, “Champassak is being positioned as the centre of trade and tourism and a gateway to the southern provinces of Laos. Over the past five years, more than 1,080,000 tourists have visited the province, with 301,669 visitors in 2010 alone. Today, Pakse boasts two 4-star hotels, three 3-star hotels, and numerous guesthouses catering largely to backpackers. An additional four-star hotel is under construction.

We have recently completed major road works on the East-West and North-South economic corridors. Mekong Bridges have been constructed in many places, international airports improved, more direct international air-routes opened and more than 20 international immigration points are now open, 15 of which offer 30-day tourist visa-on-arrival services.”

Mr Somphong said that citizens of eight countries have been granted visa exemptions as well as Japan, Russia, South Korea and Mongolia, Switzerland and Luxembourg. There has also been liberalisation of regulation on the use of border passes for citizens of neighbouring countries.

The tagline of the 2010 Mekong Tourist Forum was: “ Destination Mekong : The Making of a Star”

Source: Travel Impact News Wire

Written by : John K Lindgren

Category : Stories

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