Shaping the future of travel

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Harnessing power of crowdsourced marketing

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) has leveraged collaboration with industry stakeholders and the use of crowd branding to promote travel to the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

The GMS comprises six countries that are linked by the Mekong River: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and parts of China (Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region).

The strategy of the MTCO, which was established as the secretariat of the GMS Tourism Working Group of the six-member governments in 2005, over the past five years has been built entirely around contribution, collaboration, and stakeholder engagement. Financed through member country contributions, the MTCO had to create a different model in order to execute and implement the action plan set out in the 2015-2020 Experience Mekong Tourism Marketing Strategy.

By unleashing the passion of our stakeholders active in travel and tourism in the Mekong Region, from private sector players to the public sector as well as residents and travellers, and have everybody engage and contribute just a little bit, it will provide a multiplier effect on our resources to remain competitive against other tourism boards, which have more funds and manpower.

With this in mind, the MTCO launched a multi-phase strategy over five years, starting with engaging industry contributors and businesses, followed by activating advocacy of travellers using collaborative public-private partnerships.

Firstly, The Mekong Tourism Contributor Program allows any tourism professional, travel organisation, and content creator to contribute articles and stories, as well as documents, which are made available for free download on the e-library at In return, contributors receive their own page on the official website, promoting their services to the industry. This very quickly transformed the website into a trusted hub of information about travel and tourism in South-east Asia.

The second phase of the strategy was to engage businesses and promote responsible travel by driving inclusive growth, social impact, gender equality, and poverty alleviation in a tangible and measurable manner. This was done by creating the Experience Mekong Collection (EMC), which after two years of operation now features almost 350 small responsible travel businesses and social enterprises in six categories (stay, taste, do, shop, tour, and cruise) in all six countries. The nomination process is open to everybody, and integrity is ensured by the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group which is made up of sustainable travel professionals. Every year, the EMC honours one business per country for its innovation as Experience Mekong Showcases.

In the third phase, the MTCO decided to spread the word of these responsible travel businesses via storytelling. Research has shown that the most effective way to tell stories is by motivating travellers to share their experiences on social media to inspire others.
To build a framework in which businesses would motivate travellers to share and tag experiences on social media with limited resources, a public-private sector collaboration framework, Destination Mekong, was created with UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies as a lead contributor. Their social commerce and marketing automation system, ENWOKE, is used to aggregate shared visual content from photos and videos and link users automatically back to the business of the experience being shared as well as to run micro social media contests to entice visitors with prizes.

These contests effectively drive content sharing from the business that increases the likelihood of exposure of the experiences leading to more sales. The more businesses there are running social media contests, the more content is shared on social media. And the more the Mekong Region and its destinations are promoted via visual content, the more potential future travellers are inspired to visit the region.

In essence, over the past five years, the MTCO has developed a collaborative marketing and capacity building ecosystem to drive sustainable tourism and inclusive growth in the region.

However, this strategy has also transformed the traditional destination management model to an inclusive crowd-marketing model, which leads to a sustainable brand fuelled by authentic experiences created and delivered by small responsible travel businesses and shared by real travellers to inspire the world to visit the region in a responsible manner as conscious travellers.

Read the full article at TTG Asia:

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