Promoting food and gastronomy will be one of the new theme that the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office would like to promote in parallel to river cruise tourism, adventure and community-based tourism.
Gastronomy is considered as a strong factor of the region’s identity. Fish, rice, noodles, spices, fruits and vegetable are all the ingredients common to the six Mekong countries, the way to cook and use ingredients, the traditions to prepare the dishes highlight also the differences and the great variety of Mekong cuisine.
A panel of 15 participants tempted to define during the Mekong Tourism Forum how gastronomy tourism could properly develop in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Freshness and taste were the fundamentals to describe Mekong gastronomy with a strong sense of authenticity with differences based on the geographical location or the climate.
However, participants point out the necessity to see standards set up through regulations. “We want to see governments and the public sector establishing criteria and standards for quality, authentic food but also for food safety”, highlighted Nguyen Hoal Chan, Danang Office Manager of HG Travel.
According to Ta Quoc Khanh, Vice Charman of Investconsult Group, based in Hanoi, creating guides would be the best way to highlight gastronomy in the region. “We should have a website listing food themes by restaurants, but also by destinations, activities such as cooking schools or also by products. A map of gastronomy specialties for the entire Mekong area should also be made available for visitors”, he explained.
Another online guide would look more at stories to tell about food traditions, legends or customs, providing contents. All participants agreed that the future Mekong Tourism website would be a perfect vector to highlight gastronomy tourism.
A government-backed legal frame and a marketing strategy to highlight food products and cuisines would then be a base to create a true Mekong label but also help developing new food heritage trails or theme routes linked to food. From noodles to coffee plantations, from clay-pot cuisine to agro-tourism, the opportunities are indeed infinite.