Thai Prime Minister Propels ‘Four Countries, One Destination’ Tourism Initiative

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Pha Daeng Peak in Lunag in Prabang Province (Photo: ທ່ອງທ່ຽວຫຼວງພະບາງ)

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin presented an ambitious vision for Southeast Asian nations to function as one tourist destination during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on 17 January.

Srettha proposed the vision of “Seamless ASEAN,” responding to inquiries about the region’s future over the next five to 10 years.

The initiative will allow all ten member countries to maintain their individual advantages while facilitating free movement for foreign investors and tourists across the region.

To proceed with this ambitious vision, the proposed framework will aim for a comprehensive agreement involving harmonized tax incentives, visa-free cross-border movements, and a level playing field to stimulate economic growth and tourism.

Drawing similarities with Europe’s Schengen Agreement, where internal border controls are eliminated and nationals can freely move within the participating countries, Srettha noted the potential benefits of such a system in Southeast Asia.

The Schengen Agreement involves 27 EU member states and the European Free Trade Association and enables non-EU residents with a visa to move across Schengen countries without border controls.

Thai PM Srettha expressed optimism about reaching a deal on seamless tourism across Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam within six months.

“We’re almost there already, and you don’t have to wait five years,” he said, explaining that only “two or three more blocks” need to be addressed, Nikkei Asia reported.

While details on the remaining challenges were not extensively discussed, Thavisin’s optimism was echoed by Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, who endorsed the “four countries, one destination” initiative during the World Economic Forum panel discussion.

The proposal to enhance tourism collaboration was initially unveiled during a sideline meeting between Thai and Vietnamese leaders in December 2023 at a summit in Tokyo.