MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will continue to help countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) promote tourism as a way to reduce poverty. The announcement came at the 2011 ASEAN Tourism Forum in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
At the meeting, GMS tourism ministers agreed to intensify efforts to protect natural and cultural tourism sites, upgrade infrastructure, strengthen human resources and streamline immigration procedures. In addition, the ministers agreed to better protect vulnerable groups from the negative impacts of tourism and continue efforts to spread the benefits of tourism more broadly. These strategic priorities are key recommendations of the recently completed GMS Tourism Sector Strategy midterm review that was endorsed at the meeting.
"ADB appreciates the invaluable assistance that other development partners, including UN agencies and bilateral donors provide to the GMS tourism sector. We also acknowledge the French Government's ongoing support for the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office," said Steven Schipani, Social Sector Specialist in ADB's Southeast Asia Department.
The GMS tourism sector has remained resilient during the recent economic recession. Annual international tourist arrivals in the sub-region have more than doubled from 10 million in 1995 to over 26 million in 2009. In 2011 the GMS expects 30 million international arrivals due to improving economic conditions and the rise in regional leisure travel.
By the end of 2010, ADB had provided about $55 million in loans and grants, and $3.15 million in technical assistance to the GMS tourism sector. Included in the ADB's Regional Cooperation Operations Business Plan for the GMS covering 2011-2013 is the Sustainable Tourism Development Project Phase II with estimated financing of $60 million. ADB technical assistance has also been proposed to link tourism to poverty reduction in the Southern Economic Corridor, and for the Explore Mekong - Marketing the GMS as a Single Destination program, estimated at $ 2.4 million.
The GMS is made up of Cambodia, the People's Republic of China (PRC, specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam.