Rather than build up Routes 8 and 12 as a trade
route competing with Route 9, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam should jointly develop
Routes 8 and 12 as an eco-tourism routes linking the three countries, suggests
the Thai ambassador to Laos.
Vitavas Srivihok, the Thai ambassador to Laos, says Thailand will urge Laos and
Vietnam to co-operate on eco-tourism. Both Route 8 and Route 12 have good
potential for eco-tourism, he adds, given the number of caves, waterfalls and
other attractive features along the way.
Goods transported to Vietnam via Laos on Routes 8 and 12 currently face problems
because the Laotian Customs Department treats them as imported goods destined
for re-export, thereby forcing truckers to pay higher duties, said a transport
Goods transported via Route 9 are treated differently, as it has a special
status in the Cross Border Transport Agreement and is thus eligible for lower
Route 8 links Nakhon Phanom in Thailand with Thakhek and Khammouane in Laos. It
thenlinks to Route 12 in Laos which continues to Dong Hoi on the central Vietnam
coast. Route 9, roughly parallel but farther south, links Mukdahan in Thailand
via Savannakhet, Laos to Danang.
Vitavas said he hopes that when the third Thai-Lao Bridge across the Mekong
River opens in November 2011, linking Nakhon Phanom and Khammouane, it will help
facilitate more tourism and trade on this route.
The Thai Ambassador acknowledges that Laos doesn’t want to be treated as a
corridor for trade between Vietnam and Thailand, and that’s a good reason for it
to develop its potential for tourism on Routes 8 and 12.
The weakness of Vietnam on the two routes is that its tourist spots are not
connected to each other, he said.
Laos is the best location for creating a link with four countries: Thailand,
Burma, China, and Vietnam. "Travelling through Laos will be the shortest way. If
the roads in Laos can be connected, we can easily travel to all five countries
in this region," Vitavas told the Bangkok Post. Of the total 2 million visitors
to Laos last year, 1.3 million were Thais.
Vitavas urges the Greater Mekong Subregion members - Thailand, Laos, Vietnam,
Cambodia and southern China - to co-operate on tourism more seriously. “Better
joint promotion of tourism is a good way to help alleviate poverty and meets
foreign tourists wish to visit many Asian countries at one time to save costs,”
"There are few countries in the world that jointly promote regional tourism, and
they are in Europe, the Caribbean countries and Pacific island countries," says
Vitavas. To promote tourism in the region, there should be a single visa and
shared infrastructure, he adds.
Vitavas argues that the strategy for tourism promotion should include a common
market with three to five countries treated as one destination. As well, it will
be important to develop the human resources, encourage cross-border
facilitation, private-sector participation and tourism-related infrastructure.