Cambodia and Thailand are pushing for the implementation of an agreement on tourism cooperation. The call was announced during a meeting between Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon and Thai Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul last Thursday in Bangkok.
Both countries will facilitate tourism by implementing a single visa for third countries in a grouping known as the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy, or ACMES. The ACMECS comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
All ACMECS members are part of ASEAN, and the ACMECS single visa is expected to pave the way for an ASEAN common visa. Thailand and Cambodia will push for the use of border passes for provinces along the border and facilitate the ASEAN lane along international border checkpoints.
A joint statement issued after the meeting of the two ministers stated that Cambodia and Thailand promised to use all means and activities to jointly promote the campaign of “Two Kingdoms, One Destination” within Cambodia and Thailand.
The countries were also pushing investment in tourism, especially in main destinations, and connecting travelling by sea and coastal areas. Human development on tourism professionalism, service, and the management of tourism destinations are also issues to be dealt with, while Thailand has allowed Cambodian medical tourists to stay in Thailand for about three months on each visit.
Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA Cambodia Chapter), told the Khmer Times that Thailand and Cambodia cannot carry out tourism promotions separately. He said most foreign tourists know Thailand better than Cambodia, while Cambodia is solely dependent on Thailand for air transport.
“We have to cooperate with Thailand, so all agreements signed between Thailand and Cambodia will benefit Cambodia and its people,” he said. “For the time being, we need a neighbouring country to help us boost tourism.”
Sinan added that Cambodia has visitors from Vietnam and Laos, and there is no sign of a decrease in Thai tourists to Cambodia. “So if we try to promote both countries such as ‘Two Kingdoms One Destination’, more foreign tourists will get to know Cambodia.”
Ho Vandy, secretary-general of Cambodia’s National Tourism Alliance, told the Khmer Times that cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia was good for all stakeholders in the tourism sector. He said the “Two Kingdoms, One Destination” promotion would help both countries attract tourists from third countries. “Cambodia currently has to cooperate with Thailand to promote tourism since Thailand is the transport hub which connects both air and land,” he said.
Last year, Cambodia welcomed about five million international visitors to Cambodia, a rise on the year of five percent. Of these, 350,000 Thais visited Cambodia. From January to February of this year, Cambodia welcomed about a million international tourists. Of these, the number from Thailand was 68,765 – an increase of about 19 percent. The Tourism Ministry says 700,000 Cambodian tourists went to Thailand in 2016.