The idea of tourists getting one visa for six destinations in the Mekong region is tough to achieve because nations are concerned about security, Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said yesterday.
Thailand and Cambodia launched a single visa for both countries in late 2012 but the scheme has not been popular among visitors because it is still not easy to get, the minister said on the sidelines of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) summit. It takes at least three days for each country to grant tourism visas for foreign visitors who want to enter both Thailand and Cambodia on one visa, she said.
The original idea to have a Schengen-style tourist visa was suggested at a meeting in Myanmar, in 2003 between leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. But to date, only Thailand and Cambodia have reached a bilateral agreement to grant a single visa to tourists.
Countries such as Laos are negotiating to join the scheme but security concerns are preventing them, Kobkarn said.
“We will have a meeting among concerned agencies in Thailand to discuss the matter again,” she said. “I will propose to reduce security concerns to promote tourism.”
Thailand has good prospects to be a regional hub for tourism because it can physically and logistically link to other destinations in the Mekong region. Each country has mapped out many trails in the region to promote tourism. Thailand had proposed focusing on two trails initially – the Mekong discovery, including the Mekong Delta and the Southern Coastal Corridor, she said.
The Mekong Discovery trail includes new destinations along the Mekong River and a new trail along Route No 12 in Laos that links Nakhon Phanom via Laos to Vietnam, she said.