According to travel companies, these three countries must boost tourism cooperation so visitors find it more convenient to travel between them, enjoying famous destinations after a shorter journey.
With distinct Southeast Asian features, the three Indochinese countries all have wonders of nature as well as unique cultural features. Vietnam travel holds vast potential with its long beaches and white sand famous all over the world, and UNESCO-recognized world heritage sites such as Halong Bay, My Son Sanctuary, Hoian Ancient Town, Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park, Hue royal court music, and Gong culture of the Central Highlands. Cambodia is the land of the ancient temple of Angkor Wat, as well as the tourist attraction of Phnom Penh capital and beaches of Sihanoukville province with full services. Laos is considered the land of temples, with 1,400 pagodas, among the famous That Luang, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan, Wat Si Muang, Wat Si Saket, Wat Xieng Khuan (also known as Buddha Park), and hundreds of Buddhist statues sculpted according to the legends of Buddha, in That Luang region.
Another problem faced by most travel companies is that the number of visitors choosing the “Three countries - one destination” tour has not yet reached the desired level. Part of the problem behind this is bad infrastructure and difficulty travelling. The cooperation among the three countries should include more infrastructure investment projects such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, and air and road transportation routes. In addition, travel agents are also interested in improving air traffic among the three countries. For example, these days, there is no direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Laos, but travellers have to transit through Hanoi.
While the “Three countries – one destination” tourism project increases cooperation and helps push economic development of the three countries, it mainly counts on the geographical proximity and common cultural features among the three countries. The program might encounter difficulties in the future; hence, it is necessary to cooperate in advertising and training human resources to standardize services. At the same time, this also means cooperating in administrative procedures to save time, cost and increase convenience for visitors. According to Mr Nguyen Ngoc Dzung, the manager of one Vietnam Tour Operator, we can take the model of a common visa in the Schengen community as an example of success in Europe. Tourists require only one visa to visit any country that signed the Schengen agreement. The task of simplifying administrative procedures can be carried out by applying a single visa for three countries, which is currently only in planning but has attracted support from managers and travel agents. To apply this, the three Indochinese countries need a long process and the effort of all the departments, organizations and offices.
In fact, these days many travel companies have built up programs, researched and launched tours that combine the three countries to serve travellers. However, difficulties include uneven tourism development among the three countries, along with improper tour design and high cost. Market feedback on this kind of tour is not very good because this program requires a number of days with high expenses. This program is suitable for faraway markets like Europe and the USA, however last year, the number of visitors from these markets to Vietnam was not so high, so bookings for this tour reflect that. Vietnamese tourists mainly travel by road, from Vietnam to Laos, and to Thailand and Cambodia; the visitors coming to Laos are mainly in transit and the number of visitors is not so large so this kind of tour hasn’t been popular.
Mr Vu Hoang An, the manager of Rainbow Travel Company, also said that this program is very meaningful, which shows solidarity and cooperation in tourism among the three countries; but prospects for further cooperation is huge because the tourism potential of the three countries is not yet fully exploited. However, the early stages of cooperation still face many drawbacks such as bad infrastructure. Among the three countries, only Vietnam has a developed airway. In addition, the cost is still high and finding qualified human resources is a challenge. Travel company staff, especially inbound companies who provide the main stream of overseas tours, have not had the chance to fully understand this kind of tour.
Director of Vietravel in Lao Cai province Tran Van Toan said that if “three countries - one destination” tourism is built in a professional way that brings benefits for clients, a large number of visitors will be attracted. For example, if the combination of Vietnamese marine tourism, Cambodian cultural tourism and Laos ecological tourism is implemented, an ideal common destination will be created which can take full advantage of regional tourism potential and meet the demand of international visitors.