MEKONG TOURISM FORUM: THE GMS MUST-ATTEND CONFERENCE
The Mekong Tourism Forum provides a cooperative platform for stakeholders in the tourism industry to discuss the development, marketing and promotion of travel to, from and within the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). It presents an inclusive, interactive and results-oriented opportunity to encourage public and private sector participation in representing the GMS as a single destination.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) organized the first Mekong Tourism Forum in 1996 and led it for 10 consecutive years. The hosting of this influential annual event rotated among destinations within the GMS until 2005. In subsequent years the private sector initiated similar events around the region and continued to work to promote the Forum’s objectives.
The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) has revived the forum in 2010 taking place in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with the theme of “New Roads, New Opportunities”. Followed by MTF2011 “Destination Mekong: The Making of a Star” in Pakse, Laos, MTF2012 in Chiang Rai, Thailand with the theme of “20/20 Vision: Building on Two Decades of GMS Cooperation”, MTF2013 in Guilin, China with the theme ““The Rise of the Chinese traveller: Optimizing the impacts for the GMS”, and MTF2014 in Mandalay, Myanmar with the theme “Tourism investment for the protection of Heritage and Culture”. The MTF2015 was hosted in Da Nang, Viet Nam with the theme “Unlocking the Mekong Region via Innovative Partnerships”. MTF2016 was hosted in July 2016 in Sihanoukville, Cambodia with the theme “Authentic Experiences along the Mekong River”. MTF2017 was hosted by Lao PDR under the theme “Prosper with Purpose”.
The Mekong Tourism Forum works to achieve three main objectives:
- To raise the profile of the Greater Mekong Subregion as a single tourist destination
- To provide an industry-wide platform for the public and private sectors to address sub-regional tourism issues
- To expand marketing networks and opportunities for promoting the Greater Mekong Subregionand and pool collective resources to create intra-industry synergies
The 2017 Mekong Tourism Forum was hosted by the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism of Lao PDR in Luang Prabang from June 6-9. More information is available at www.mekongtourismforum.org, on our social media profiles (Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn), and sign up for our newsletter. The complete MTF 2017 Report can be downloaded here, and the program can be downloaded here.
What happened at MTF2017?
1. Mekong Tourism Strategy Open Forum (in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank). We invited the travel and tourism executives to join the Mekong Tourism Sector Strategy Open Forum to learn about the new GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2025, and how the tourism strategy could be effectively implemented over the next 10 years.
2. Blogger Matchup @ MTF 2017 (in collaboration with Blogger Matchup) educating the industry on the importance of storytelling and how to work with bloggers and social influencers.
3. MIST (Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism): MIST, which stands for Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism, began in December 2016 as a joint venture between the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and the Government of Australia and Asian Development Bank (ADB) supported Mekong Business Initiative (MBI). It includes a Startup Accelerator for early-stage startups from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. It also includes a Market Access Program for mature startups based anywhere in the world that want MIST’s assistance localizing proven tourism products and solutions into the Greater Mekong Subregion. MIST received more than 250 applications in 2017.
4. MTF 2017 Keynote (sponsored by Exo Foundation): Conscious.travel founder Ms Anna Pollock addressed the MTF 2017 delegates on the theme “Prosper with Purpose”. Up until a decade or so ago, the purpose of business was never questioned – it was simply to generate a profitable return for shareholders. In less than a decade, those core beliefs have shifted radically and smart tourism enterprises and destinations are tapping into a growing desire of guests to buy from and employees to work for companies that can communicate not just what they sell but what they stand for. By serving a purpose higher than the bottom line, they unleash the passion of their employees and satisfy their guest’s search for meaning and fulfillment. Rising destinations also have the opportunity to differentiate themselves by demonstrating how tourism genuinely benefits the broader host community.
4. Mekong Tourism Opportunities & Threats – GMS travel stakeholders make passionate pleas on important opportunities and threats shaping the tourism industry in the GMS, from child protection, community-based tourism, storytelling, preserving heritage, Chinese consumers, and food tourism.
5. Mekong Tourism Break-Through Sessions – 16 sessions hosted by local travel operators in and around Luang Prabang facilitated by tourism experts take delegates on a journey throughout the UNESCO Heritage town.
6. Post Tours – 10 exciting experiences to explore Luang Prabang, hosted by Luang Prabang Tourism and private sector travel operators.
7. Refill Not Landfill (supported by GIZ) – in an effort to reduce plastic waste, each MTF 2017 delegate received a refillable water bottle bottle, and meeting venues dubbed as refill stations. Single-use plastic water bottles were banned during MTF 2017.
The 2016 Mekong Tourism Forum was hosted by the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia in the beautiful Kingdom of Wonder of Cambodia from July 5-9 in Sihanoukville. More information is available at www.mekongtourismforum.org, on our social media profiles (Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn), and sign up for our newsletter. The complete MTF 2016 Report can be downloaded here, and the program can be downloaded here.
What happened at MTF2016?
1. Mekong Tourism Digital Boot-Camp (in collaboration with Digital Innovation Asia & Digi.travel) educating the industry on the importance of digital, social, and mobile. The event, hosted by the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia, featured experts from BeMyGuest, Tang Dynasty (China), Egg Agency (Viet Nam), Guiddoo (India), and Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.
2. Mekong Tourism Strategy Open Forum (in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank). We invited the travel and tourism executives to join the Mekong Tourism Sector Strategy Open Forum to brainstorm how the tourism strategy foundation for the next 10 years should be set.
3. Mekong Tourism Investment Summit (in collaboration with HVS) debating investment opportunities, risks, and challenges in the GMS, to create innovative partnerships by hoteliers, airliners, tour operators, cruise companies, banks and public sector.
4. Mekong Tourism Symposium (opened by HE Dr. Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism of Cambodia) – the main event of the Mekong Tourism Forum focusing on the MTF2016 theme “Authentic Experiences along the Mekong River”, with keynotes from the former Assistant Secretary General of the UNWTO, and National Geographic.
5. Mekong Food Tourism Seminar (in collaboration with Thammasat University and Chameleon Strategies) – The Mekong region couldn’t be better placed to satisfy the need, and position the region as a multi-country, must-visit tourism destination. The role of food tourism in the GMS can help position the Mekong Region as a unique and exciting travel destination.
6. Post Tours – exciting tours to explore Sihanoukville at the Southern Coast of Cambodia.
The 2015 Mekong Tourism Forum in Da Nang, Viet Nam, hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Viet Nam (MCST), the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), and the City of Da Nang, from June 15-19, 2015, features four events during four days, at zero cost registration free, including the Mekong Tourism Marketing Workshop, the Mekong Tourism Social Media Boot Camp, the Mekong Tourism Investment Summit, and the main Mekong Tourism Symposium to focus on bringing public and private sector together to collaborate, discuss, and debate on key issues to position the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) as a single tourism destination, promoting multi-country travel to secondary destinations. In addition, MTF15 will provide engaging networking, beautiful evening functions, a movie screening of an award-winning feature film, investment opportunity showcases, cooking demonstrations by Koto students during breaks, and a host destination ranked as one of the top beach destinations in the world. Presentations can be downloaded at MekongTourismForum.org, and photos can be viewed at www.flickr.com/tourismmekong and www.facebook.com/tourismmekong. Please read the final press release.
What happened at MTF2015?
1. Mekong Tourism Marketing Workshop (in collaboration with UNWTO, PATA, ATTA, GSTC, and Thammasat University) – private and public sector collaboration on product development, aligned to the new Mekong Tourism Marketing Strategy, focusing on key themes and thematic routes in the GMS; from food, cruise, and community based tourism, to adventure tourism. The Report of the Mekong Tourism Marketing Workshop at MTF 2015 can be downloaded here.
2. Mekong Tourism Social Media Boot-Camp (in collaboration with Digital Innovation Asia) educating the industry on the importance of digital, social, and mobile. The event features experts from facebook, Tripadvisor, Dragon Trail (China), Rezgo (Canada), Guiddoo (India).
3. Mekong Tourism Investment Summit (in collaboration with HVS, Horwath, and C9 Hotelworks) debating investment opportunities, risks, and challenges in the GMS, to create innovative partnerships by hoteliers, airliners, tour operators, cruise companies, banks and public sector.
4. Mekong Tourism Symposium – the main event of the Mekong Tourism Forum focusing on the MTF2015 theme “Unlocking the Potential of Mekong Tourism via Innovative Partnerships”.
5. Movie Screening: Gringo Trails – introduced by the film’s director and producer, movie screening of the award-winning feature film “Gringo Trails”, showing the unanticipated impact of tourism on cultures, economies, and the environment.
6. Post Tours – exciting tours to explore the region, including Da Nang City (including Marble Mountains and Son Tra Peninsula), Hoi An City (a beautiful UNESCO heritage town), Ba Na Hills, and the Cotu Ethnic Minority Community Village (one of Vietnam’s most authentic hill tribes).