[ Problem Addressed | ESCAP's Role | Beneficiaries
| Achievements | Follow-up
Tourism is recognized as
one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Over the next decade, it is expected
to present major opportunities and major challenges for countries of Asia and the Pacific.
In particular, the Greater Mekong subregion (GMS) - comprising Cambodia, Lao People’s
Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and Yunnan Province of China- has great
potential to attract visitors from around the world. With a trend now firmly established
towards the liberalization of policy on tourism issues, the prospects for building up
tourism into an important economic activity throughout the subregion have brightened
According to ESCAP studies, tourism already contributes substantially to foreign
exchange earnings, employment and government revenue; and direct, indirect and induced
income in a number of countries in the region. It has also been found to help reduce
regional economic disparities within countries, since areas suitable for tourism
development are often situated far from the main centres of other economic activities.
However, an important point needs to be stressed: A clearly defined policy towards tourism
must first be in place; otherwise, adverse effects on a country's economy, society,
culture and environment can be expected.
To optimize the benefits from tourism, countries of the Greater Mekong subregion which
are in the early stages of tourism development will need to be more aware of its various
impacts and implications: the economic impact, correct environmental management for
tourism,infrastructure investment and development, human resources development for the
service sector, additional travel arrangements to expand intra-regional tourism, and the
promotion of regional and subregional tourism, including tourism along the Asian Highway.
Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Viet Nam
ESCAP promotes sustainable tourism development by encouraging countries in the region
to take an integrated approach to developing their tourism potentials. In recent years,
there has been a world-wide upsurge of interest in ecotourism, which encourages tourists
to experience and learn about the diverse attractions nature has to offer, while at the
same time protecting natural systems from damage and disruption. Thus, ESCAP helps and
encourages the sharing of experiences and information about countries' policies and
practices in environmental management for tourism, with a particular focus on coastal
areas. Making travel less problematic is another important focus of ESCAP.
Since early 1990, through its technical assistance programmes, ESCAP has
placed emphasis on national capacity building for tourism development and planning, and
the facilitation of travel. With support from the Government of Japan, ESCAP has devised
guiding principles to help national policy makers and planners maximize the socio-economic
benefits of tourism while minimizing its adverse impacts. Development of human resources has
focused on group training at the regional, subregional and national levels. In response to
requests from Governments, ESCAP has provided advisory services to deal with specific
problems. The programmes also seek to promote subregional and regional cooperation in
tourism development through technical collaboration and networking.
ESCAP gives special attention to countries which are in the early stages of tourism
development, including the least developed countries, countries with economies in
transition, Pacific island developing countries as well as countries in the Greater Mekong
subregion. For example, the year 2000 has been designated by the Government of Viet Nam as
"Visit Viet Nam - 2000" to mark the fortieth anniversary of Vietnamese tourism.
In carrying out tourism activities, ESCAP maintains close links with the World Tourism
Organization (WTO), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Pacific Asia Travel Association
(PATA), UNESCO and UNEP.
The direct beneficiaries of ESCAP's tourism activities are government agencies
responsible for tourism development and promotion, and tourism-related training
institutes. In the broader picture, however, benefits extend to the individuals in the
various countries who engage in training programmes and thus gain employment
ESCAP and ADB jointly established a working group on the Greater Mekong Subregion
tourism sector, comprising representatives of six national tourism organizations and
international organizations. The working group forges cooperation in launching priority
projects for tourism promotion among the GMS countries. The Agency for Coordination of
Mekong Tourism Activities (AMTA), established within the Tourism Authority of Thailand,
serves as the secretariat of the working group.
ESCAP has produced studies on the planning of tourism along the Mekong/Lancang River,
and on simplifying travel to and within the Greater Mekong subregion. As follow-up to the
studies undertaken by ESCAP and with support of the Government of Japan, ADB has completed
phases II and III of the Mekong/Lancang River planning project. ADB also plans to provide
funds for a programme to help establish and strengthen training units within national
tourism organizations of the Greater Mekong subregion.
ESCAP established the Network of Asia-Pacific Education and Training Institutes in
Tourism (APETIT) in 1997, with the aim of strengthening the tourism training, education
and research institutes in the region.
Efforts are being made to encourage cooperation among them. The task is to overcome the
shortage of personnel, including highly-qualified personnel, which is holding back
development of the tourism sector. Twenty-three countries and areas are actively
participating in the APETIT activities.
ESCAP follow-up action includes the following:
- Launching and implementation of a plan of action for sustainable tourism development in
the Asian and Pacific region (1999-2005);
- Providing further assistance to national capacity-building, with focus on human
resources development in the tourism-related services sector, through seminars and
- Supporting APETIT's networking of the tourism training institutes for the sharing of
- Supporting the development of tourism-related infrastructure in the Greater Mekong
- Assistance in simplifying travel arrangements, such as immigration procedures and
formalities, and in the elimination of other inconveniences to tourists.
Hanoi, Viet Nam