New eastern routes to improve tourism in SE Asia

Machines work on the expansion of Sukhumvit Road in Trat. The province is a potential gateway to Cambodia and Vietnam.
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Plans are afoot to develop a new tourism route linking six cities in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Viyada Srong, a Cambodian entrepreneur and honorary tourist guide, said the respective private sectors in the three nations have agreed to develop the route, highlighting the uniqueness of these cities: Trat in Thailand; Battambang, Pursat, Sihanoukville and Koh Kong in Cambodia; and Phu Quoc in Vietnam.

Trat can be developed as a gateway to Cambodia and Vietnam, thanks to its abundance of natural resources, seafood products and tropical fruits, Ms Viyada said.

Phu Quoc, meanwhile, is becoming a popular destination for international tourists, while Koh Kong in Cambodia features a casino. Battambang is becoming a more international city, while Pursat is drawing more visitors from Thailand and Western countries.

Sihanoukville is already a big draw for tourists the world over, welcoming more than 2 million visitors last year — 30% of whom were not Cambodian.

“All six cities in the three nations can be linked into one route,” Ms Viyada said.

She said the number of arrivals from Europe and China have gradually increased in recent years.

Sihanoukville attracts seven direct flights a day from China. It also enjoys spillover tourists who head to Thailand first.

“Imagine how impressed tourists would be if they could eat three meals in three different countries in a single day,” she said. “Small countries in Europe have done well with a similar business model.”

China, Hong Kong and Japan are also seeing more investors head to the region dubbed the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam).

“This is an opportunity for operators in Thailand to benefit from an economic boom,” Ms Viyada said.

But entrepreneurs are advised to select their partners carefully if they want to succeed in CLMV markets, she said. They also need a strong brand image and identity before expanding.

Business owners or investors in Cambodia need to establish a strong connection with their local partners and local authority officers to smooth the way, Ms Viyada said.

Chakkraphat Tavetikul, president of the Tourism Business Association in Trat, said the province has the potential to draw many more tourists from Cambodia and other countries.

Last year it welcomed 2.4 million tourists, generating revenue in excess of 20 billion baht.

“The number of tourists into Trat province will exceed 5 million over the next two years,” Mr Chakkraphat said. “China and Europe will represent a huge share of this.”

He urged the government to accelerate its efforts to improve infrastructure and enhance immigration services to handle the upswing in traffic. – Bangkok Post

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