Cambodia and Viet Nam will continue to work together to ensure bilateral trade continues amidst border control measures implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the two countries have enforced stricter travel restrictions to tourists passing through their borders, Cambodia and Viet Nam remain open to the exchange of goods.
Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, cautioned that what makes travel in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) one of a kind is now at risk. This includes travel experiences that define the Mekong Region and small businesses that are unique to the subregion.
Senior officials of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) met to discuss responses to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the GMS, focusing on regional approaches to promote recovery and resilience. The meeting was held via videoconferencing on 2 June 2020, with participation from all GMS countries and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
‘Travel bubbles’ are being considered by Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar and Thailand, as a means to safely resume travel activities. Members of the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group recommended creating travel bubbles to kickstart regional tourism in the absence of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in their meeting in May.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a $3,000,000 technical assistance to support the implementation of initiatives to accelerate trade and cross-border investment between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam—member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) program—and India. This ADB-administered technical assistance is financed by the United Kingdom Fund for Asia Regional Trade and Connectivity under the Regional Cooperation and Integration Financing Partnership Facility.
The Government of Myanmar released a Strategic Roadmap for Tourism Recovery that aims to establish ‘new normal’ conditions to help tourism make a comeback.
Mr. Ohn Maung, Union Minister of Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, provided guidelines for implementation of the plan. It includes three phases:
Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and Viet Nam plan to upgrade two local border crossing points to international border crossings this year. The plan was announced during the 29th annual border meeting of the two neighboring countries on 26 December 2019 in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.
The Dak Ta-Ok (Lao PDR)–Nam Giang (Viet Nam) between Xekong (Lao PDR) and Quang Nam (Viet Nam) provinces will be the first international crossing point in Xekong. The neighboring countries plan to open this upgraded international border crossing in the first quarter of 2020.
As countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion slowly move toward the ‘new normal,’ they are also enacting phased approaches to implement tourism recovery. The challenge for the subregion’s travel and tourism sector is to manage and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and build back a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient tourism sector.
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and Myanmar will explore opportunities to enhance tourism cooperation through bilateral and multilateral frameworks. This was agreed by the two countries at the 12th Meeting of Myanmar-Laos Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation held in Vientiane, Lao PDR on 6 March 2020.
Lao PDR and Myanmar aim to create a new cooperation master plan. Tourism could help promote each other’s rich culture and heritage and bring their people together.