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Why Indochina is the world's fastest growing tourist region

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No country has experienced a faster growth in tourist visits than Cambodia, according to the annual Tourism Highlights published by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

From only 17,000 arrivals in 1990 to 5,600,000 recorded last year, the country has witnessed the world’s biggest increase in annual visitors, with almost 295 million since 1990.

With Laos and Myanmar just behind, Vietnam in sixth place and Thailand in the UNWTO's top ten destinations of 2017, the whole Indochina region has been living a golden age of virtually uninterrupted tourism expansion.

Boasting a 576% increase in international arrivals, South East Asia attracts millions of tourists for a variety of reasons.

“First comes the region’s visa policy. South-East Asian countries tend to be internationally more open than the average,” says Peter Rambeck Andersen, tourism expert and founder of Indochina Explorers Travel.

Secondly, tourist facilities have hugely improved in the last decade, with the 2006 avant-garde refurbishment of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport being an example of that. “Most governments there have realised the strategic role that tourism plays in attracting visitors and creating jobs,” explains Andersen.

Johnny Dao, a 26-year-old inhabitant of Hanoi and Development Manager at International Telecom Company FPT, is pleased to see more and more foreigners visiting Vietnam: “The growth in tourist numbers has created opportunities for local people to change their lives and boosted the local economy. We consider the travel industry a money maker.”

“An increase of travellers from around Asia has changed the face of tourism in the region, driving a massive expansion in infrastructure and the local economy overall” explains Tom Vater, travel journalist based in Asia.

In addition, statistics project that this tourism escalation won’t stop, as by 2027 Indochina’s tourism sector is expected to account for over 16 million jobs, with international arrivals increasing by 6% and the share of national investment rising from 6.7% to about 7%.  

Nevertheless, tourism has also brought negative repercussions upon Indochina, having at times spoiled local culture and damaged the environment. In these regards, columnist for local news website PhuketWan.com Chutima Sidasathian says: “Tourism is often destructive in natural environments, with restaurants being established in beautiful spots and resorts springing up along once-pristine coastlines.

"The island’s future lies with mass tourism and its original beauty is now very hard to find; degradation is constant and cannot be repaired.”

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