Evaluation of ADB's Assistance to the Tourism Sector in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Date: December 2008
Type: Evaluation Reports
Show 4 tags
Evaluation; Industry and trade; Regional cooperation and integration; Social development and protection
Series: Sector Assistance Program Evaluation



This evaluation of ADB's assistance to the tourism sector in the GMS identifies lessons and makes recommendations for improving current and future operations. The findings of this study feed into the broader GMS regional cooperation assistance program evaluation.

The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), comprising Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China, possesses a wide range of attractive natural, cultural, and historical heritage tourism resources. In 2007, GMS tourism resources attracted about 27 million international tourists representing nearly 3% of the 898 million international tourist arrivals, and generated $15.6 billion in receipts. An increasing trend in number of tourists has also been observed in GMS countries in recent years, with tourist arrivals increasing by four and half times since 1990.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided about $38.2 million assistance for the GMS tourism industry-loans comprise 92% or $35.0 million, and technical assistance (TA) grants, $3.2 million. ADB lending to the sector consists of three ongoing loans to Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam under the GMS Mekong Tourism Development Project, which aims to promote the development of tourism in the Mekong River basin. In addition, the GMS tourism sector received six TA projects (4% of total ADB TA to the GMS); five of these are complete. These addressed training, capacity building, preparation of a feasibility study of priority tourism infrastructure projects, and formulation of a GMS regional tourism sector strategy.

  Main lessons

  • Further simplification of visa and border-crossing arrangements is needed.
  • Developing community-based tourism should be given importance.
  • Improvement of cross-sector coordination to build synergies is needed.
  • Demand analysis for tourism plays a critical role in informing project design.

  Overall assessment and recommendations

Overall, the sector assistance program evaluation assesses ADB assistance to the GMS tourism sector "successful."

The evaluation made recommendations in relation to the following areas of ADB's operations:

  • Clarify alignment with Strategy 2020. Tourism is not specifically identified as a core area of operation in ADB's high-level strategy, Strategy 2020. Management guidance is needed on whether ADB should finance projects in the sector in the future.
  • Improve effectiveness of ADB assistance for tourism. ADB should continue its intellectual leadership by focusing more on nonlending products and services geared to strengthen policy analysis and positioning of the tourism assistance strategic focus and sector selectivity in ADB operations.
  • Encompass all GMS members in tourism project initiatives. Major project activities have so far been limited to just three GMS countries—Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam. Additional modalities and approaches that would allow other GMS countries to be involved as well should be investigated.
  • Provide better opportunities for inclusiveness. It is essential to build the capacity of public sector tourism officials, especially in the provinces that can have an impact on inclusiveness and poverty reduction.