Poor infrastructure and human resources, worsened by cumbersome immigration procedures, have limited tourism development in the Greater Mekong Subregion, which includes Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Caravan tours between cultural and historic sites in the three countries have faced challenges.

During a recent "investigation trip" by officials, they discovered that roads from the bordergate in Vietnam to Cambodia's Kratie extend 230km but are not in good condition.

In addition, many enterprises want to organise tours but have been unable to do so because of immigration procedures.

"We need strong links between the three nations to deal with immigration. In addition, more investment for infrastructure, including roads, services and rest stops, is needed," said Ho Tan Cuong, vice director of central Quang Nam Province's Culture, Sports and Tourism Department, who took part in the investigation trip with other officials.

He suggested a tourism route that could begin or end at Angkor Wat in Cambodia to Laos' Vat Phou temple, to the Central Highland provinces in Vietnam to learn about the gong culture. The final stop could be the My Son sanctuary and the historic town of Hoi An in central Vietnam.

"Tourists could enjoy the cultural values of three countries via road and air," Cuong added. "Tourism on roads from Vietnam to Laos and Cambodia is now convenient. Good tourism services along with good cultural preservation attracts tourists."

In addition, Cambodia and Laos have become more attractive to many Vietnamese tourists.

For the first 10 months of the year, more than 700,000 Vietnamese visited Cambodia.

This represented 21 percent of international tourists in Cambodia, an increase of 11.5 percent compared to the same period last year, and the highest proportion of foreign tourists.

Poor co-operation between authorities of the three countries has also hindered tourism potential in the subregion.

"Tourism development co-operation has been negotiated since 1994. Enterprises have been asked to take part in programmes and more negotiations between governments and the private sector were encouraged," said Tran Phu Cuong, deputy head of the Tourism Authority's International Co-operation Department.

At the 32nd annual meeting on tourism development among the three countries, held in Kampot, Cambodia, early this month, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced a support loan of 100 million USD for tourism infrastructure projects in the subregion.

The funds will be used for seaport construction, waste water treatment for tourism areas, green tours on sea, and tourism development with the participation of local communities.

"We would like to connect all authorities and policymakers in these three countries in order to further investment opportunities," Phuong Huu Viet, chairman of the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia Association for Economic Co-operation Development, said.-VNA