The number of tourists to the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) has been on the rise for some time, bringing sizable economic and social benefits, and proving the tourism sector’s important role in the area’s socio-economic development.

Tran Phu Cuong, deputy head of the Department for International Cooperation of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, made the remarks at a Mekong forum to promote tourism in the GMS in Hanoi on December 19.

The event, co-hosted by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Association of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia Economic Cooperation and Development, is part of efforts to facilitate win-win economic cooperation among Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, and China’s Yunnan and Guangxi provinces.

Cuong said to maintain a growth rate in the smokeless industry, the GMS nations should be aware of the importance of benefits brought by the sector.

They should work together to turn the region into a unique tourism destination where attractions are shaped by rich natural resources, an untouched tourism environment and cultural diversity, he said.

In 2012, nearly 44 million people visited the region, according to the official.

Participants assessed tourism partnerships in the region and the Greater Mekong Sub-region and presented opportunities for tourism investment in the GMS countries.

They also touched upon solutions to boost connectivity and partnerships for travel companies while suggesting the GMS countries’ Governments develop complete policies to step up tourism development cooperation in the region.