Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), by invitation of the Chairman of the PATA Chiang Rai Chapter, held a Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG) Meeting, presenting newly launched programs to the travel and tourism industry of Northern Thailand, prior to the PATA Adventure Travel and Responsible Tourism Conference in Chiang Rai. Around 20 professionals from hotels, airlines, tour operators, restaurants, media, and attractions joined the interactive discussion, following the presentation.
The programs that were introduced focused on ways to collaborate and work together in promoting the Greater Mekong Subregion as a single tourism destination. As set-out in the Experience Mekong Marketing Strategy 2015-2020, multi-country tours covering secondary destinations are pivotal in creating shared value and inclusive growth across the region in order to alleviate poverty.
Over the past 15 months, MTCO has re-developed the MekongTourism.org digital platform in collaboration with the six member countries and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was recently recognised with a Silver Website Award from the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Says Jens Thraenhart: “”We are now excited to roll-out innovative initiatives to engage with the travel and tourism industry, leveraging the new digital platform.”
A full list of key website functionality can be seen at: http://www.mekongtourism.org/about/key-website-features/
We have five key initiatives that we are looking to roll-out in 2016, in collaboration with the travel and tourism industry:
- Mekong Tourism Contributor Program
The Mekong Tourism Contributor Program brings together professionals passionate about the Greater Mekong Subregion, willing to contribute content to the MekongTourism.org website. Content can range from articles (both travel stories and travel trade articles), documents for the e-library, multi-country journeys, events, visual content from photos to videos as well as audio. Contributors can range from senior executives in travel and tourism companies, to individual consultants and bloggers with expertise and interest in the GMS. In return for regular contribution (ideally once a month with a minimum of once a quarter), contributors as well as companies (if relevant) will receive a profile page on the website with picture, short bio, and links to website and social media profiles (as requested). In addition, contributors can indicate their specific subject matter expertise, which also may drive business (especially in the case of consultants). All contributed content will be credited and linked back to the source website (or company as requested). Content can but is not required to be exclusive for Mekong Tourism, and can be recycled from previous articles or blog posts. MTCO does reserve to deny and/or edit articles, and contributions.
In addition, all active and verified contributors will make up the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG) – an active community of passionate people doing their part in developing tourism in the GMS in a responsible way.
In return for active contributors, we offer the following benefits:
1. Link back to the website of the content contributor, as well as appropriate crediting of the source. This will drive traffic to the individual’s website.
2. Being recognised as a subject matter expert by being approved as Official Mekong Tourism Content Contributor by having a profile. We are getting inquiries very often of companies looking for consultants and subject matter experts – this could become the go-to database of available tourism experts in the GMS.
3. Each Mekong Tourism Contributor will get his/her own embed code to display their badge on their website or blog, recognising them as an recognising “Official Mekong Tourism Contributor”, and a passionate supporter in developing tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion. This badge will then link to the respective personal profile on MekongTourism.org.
4. Becoming an active member of our Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG), which will guide us in working together in collaboration between private and public sector. We will also give Official Mekong Tourism Content Contributors and MeTAG members preferred access as well as speaking engagements at Mekong Tourism Forum and other related seminars (and conferences where we are asked to recommend speakers).
More information about the program, and to apply and submit information, please visit: http://www.tourismmekong.org/content-contributor/ (Individuals)
As part of the Mekong Tourism Contributor Program, we specifically invite tour operators to provide
In order to showcase the unique experiences available in the GMS, who better to bring it alive than the travel and tourism operators that have developed products to help travellers to create their Mekong Moments. We are asking tour operators to submit multi-country journeys that feature a route in more than one Mekong country by overland from car, bicycle, and motorbike to river cruise, train, and any other forms of transportation in story-telling format (around 500 words) with 2-5 photos. Videos are also allowed. We will credit the story, add contact information, and deep link to the travel itinerary on the tour operator website. This way we can inspire readers, that are then excited to want to find out more directly from the operator to experience the Mekong Region. So please don’t send us itineraries copied from your own website. Every month, we will feature one multi-country Journey on the homepage, and our monthly newsletter. Have a look at a few examples: http://www.mekongtourism.org/category/mekong-journey/
- #MekongMoments Social Media Campaign
We are planning to launch our first social media campaign, encouraging locals and travellers to share their #MekongMoments. These moments tell the unique story of experience the Mekong Region. For the campaign, we will utilise a powerful technology, powered by Hashtagio.com, that allows to aggregate and manage social content on the backend, which we have been testing for the past few months: http://www.mekongtourism.org/experience-mekong-2/
We are asking travel providers in the GMS to be part of the campaign as a partner by sponsoring travel experiences, from hotel stays, flights, tours, river cruises, attractions, and any other related products. Partners will be showcased on our campaign mini website, and will receive exposure in press releases, articles, and other news coverage.
Please contact Jens Thraenhart (at jens<at>mekongtourism.org) if you are interested in being part of this important campaign to promote the Greater Mekong Subregion as a single tourism destination.
- Tourism Stories of the Mekong Region
For the past few years, UNWTO has published three books in their “Tourism Stories” series (http://wtd.unwto.org/content/tourism-stories). The books features stories of people working in tourism, illustrating the sector´s far-reaching impacts, and showing how it can improve lives of both individuals and communities in destinations across the world. Aligned to the mandate of the Mekong Tourism Sector Strategy of inclusive growth, MTCO is exploring the possibility to partner with UNWTO to publish the fourth book in the series to showcase the stories of people in the Mekong Region, where tourism has made an impacting people’s life and has alleviated poverty.
Any organization interested in being part of this exciting project, please contact Jens Thraenhart (at jens<at>mekongtourism.org)
- Experience Mekong Collection & Showcase
In collaboration with the Bangkok-based College of Innovation at Thammasat University, we are looking to develop a database of responsible travel experiences in the GMS. The database will be the foundation of showcasing best practice travel products that are responsible and sustainable in essence, while representing the uniqueness of the specific destination and putting the GMS on the map as an experiential and authentic tourism destination. In order to develop the database, we are looking to gather nominations of the responsible tourism experiences in the Mekong Region. Future plans also include a publication to showcase the most experiential responsible tourism products in the GMS, as well as a website listing all accepted responsible tourism experiences. The “Experience Mekong Collection” badge will recognise verified experiences, and will increase confidence for travellers to experience the GMS. This project is revitalising the successful Mekong Responsible Tourism Guide and website (http://www.mekongtourism.org/experience-mekong/responsible-tourism/), published in 2007.
Please contact Jens Thraenhart (at jens<at>mekongtourism.org) if you would like to nominate any travel providers or any tourism experiences in the GMS.