GMS Tourism Working Group Reviews Strategic Tourism Programs; Promotes Subregional Tour Circuits

PAKSE, LAO PEOPLE'S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC - Members of the six-country Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Tourism Working Group (TWG) are meeting here today to discuss ways to accelerate programs to develop tourism-related human resources, jointly market the GMS as a single destination, and promote pro-poor tourism development.

The 27th meeting of the TWG is being organized by the Lao National Tourism Administration and Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In their 2011 Joint Ministerial Statement, GMS Tourism Ministers agreed to continue to improve the protection of shared cultural and natural heritage, upgrade infrastructure, strengthen human resources and tourism management systems, harmonize service standards, and further streamline immigration procedures. The Ministers also recognized the urgent need to better protect vulnerable groups from the negative impacts of tourism and promote socially and environmentally responsible practices in the tourism sector.

While the overall performance of GMS tourism has been impressive over the past decade, its contribution to inclusive economic growth and heritage protection is held back by several constraints.

"Some of these constraints include limited institutional capacity and human resources to plan, develop and manage socially responsible tourism and safeguard heritage assets," said Chong Chi Nai, ADB Country Director to Lao PDR Resident Mission. "GMS countries will need to make substantial investments in human resources and infrastructure to sustain tourism growth and manage its negative impacts."

ADB, together with GMS governments and their development partners, are supporting the subregional tourism program by investing in public infrastructure such as roads, sanitation, water, and power supply along with complimentary investment in technical and vocational education, biodiversity conservation, and promotion of pro-poor tourism policies.

The 27th TWG meeting is being held back-to-back with the GMS Sustainable Tourism Development Project’s Joint Steering Committee Meeting and the two-day Mekong Tourism Forum.