Many travel experiences that define the Mekong Region will cease to exist, small businesses will struggle, and not all will survive, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office executive director, Jens Thraenhart, told an online gathering of tourism experts on Tuesday.
He was chairing the first Virtual Mekong Tourism Advisory Group Meeting that drew an online audience of around 60 travel and hospitality experts from the Mekong Region.
MTCO represents the tourism interests of countries that have a stake in the Mekong River and its surrounding tourism assets in Cambodia, China (Yunnan and Guang Xi provinces) Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam
What makes travel in the Greater Mekong Subregion unique was now at risk, he warned.
“What’s authentic in the region are the small local enterprises and operators, and for some of them to go away, is like taking a part of the Mekong Region away.”
Thraanhart, in his opening remarks to the group, didn’t paint a pretty picture of tourism moving forward.
“I predict that in the future when travel resumes…you may not be able to get on a plane, enter a hotel or restaurant, attend an event or conference, theatre or concert without having been cleared by medical checks… It will become a new normal.”
Claiming a combination of agility and resilience was more critical than ever, he cautioned that “we will not succeed if we don’t come together now as an industry, and change our traditional mindsets.”
“We are lucky that we have developed various initiatives over the past five years, designed to drive sustainable tourism, resilience, and inclusive growth, that will now shape part of our recovery strategy.
MTCO’s Recovery Strategy
Support small businesses through the Experience Mekong Collection programme.
Initiate a survey and open public voting of the 2020 Experience Mekong Collection Showcases, as well as launch a dedicated online community for members of the Experience Mekong Collection.
Introduce a social media tourism recovery campaign through the platform Mekong Moments.
Launch a platform called Mekong Deals to facilitate the sale of discounted non-refundable vouchers to get money in the pockets of businesses to help them survive.
Recognise and inspire the industry through the launch of the new Mekong Heroes programme.
Share videos from the Mekong Mini Movie Festival campaign to inspire people all over the world.
“We have an opportunity to reset tourism and make it more responsible and sustainable in the region,” he concluded. “That’s why a balanced tourism recovery that puts stakeholder engagement at the core is now pivotal to achieve success.”