Mekong Tourism Announces Virtual Destination Mekong Summit

Mekong Tourism Announces Virtual Destination Mekong Summit

Bangkok, Thailand, August 5, 2020 / TRAVELINDEX / In the afternoon of Tuesday, August 25th , the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office is hosting a half-day Virtual Destination Mekong Summit, organized by public-private partnership Destination Mekong, with sponsorship of UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies, under the theme of “Balanced Tourism Recovery for a Better Future”. In order to assist businesses during these challenging times, the registration fee has been waived as a gesture of goodwill.

With feedback and significant contributions by members of the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG), and a focus on resilience and tourism recovery in the Greater Mekong Subregion, the 1st Destination Mekong Summit aims to give actionable insights and action steps to businesses, operating in the member countries of the Mekong Region. With 15 short sessions, from discussing changing sentiments from source markets China and Japan, recommendations for the meetings sector, latest data and insights for travel businesses, how to communicate to stakeholders in these times, the ever increasing importance of sustainability including climate change, plastic pollution, child protection, and wildlife conservation, as well as a scenario analysis to prepare for the future today.

The Destination Mekong Summit will also be the launchpad of the new #Mekong Memories campaign to create a content cloud of past experiences to inspire people to #TravelTomorrow, and the new Mekong Deals platform to feature non-refundable vouchers sold by travel operators to help survive the crisis, both powered by innovative engagement technology Enwoke. The campaign has been developed together with launch partners Yaana Ventures, Accor Hotels, Minor Hotels, Green Discovery Laos, Memories Group Myanmar, and Hanuman Travel Cambodia – before inviting all travel and tourism businesses regardless of size and type to join.

The format of the Virtual Destination Mekong Summit deploys a ‘condensed content concept’ by not having a series of presentations but engaging in pointed and focused discussions. The objective is to answer burning questions, offer actionable suggestions on how to survive these challenging times, and how to best prepare for an accelerated recovery. The Destination Mekong Summit is emceed by Dr. Jutamas Wisangsing of Perfect Link Consulting, and Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office Executive Director, Mr. Jens Thraenhart.

We designed the Virtual Destination Mekong Summit around a “condensed content concept”, to really address the issues by giving succinct and focused recommendations and action steps. 40 speakers will turn their insights into suggestions for industry stakeholders to act upon.”

The summit will have two short take-away sessions, led by Horwath HTL Global Tourism Practice Leader Mr Siniša Topalović, calling in from Croatia. These two sessions are designed to give delegates a quick view on key ‘dos and don’ts’, drawing on global research of many destinations and travel businesses.

Organized in various chapters of a book, the event is endorsed by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and starts with remarks by the Director of Asia Pacific of the UNWTO, Mr. Harry Hwang. The opening keynote is given by the author of the upcoming book “Travel & Covid-19”, Professor Dr. Simon Hudson of South Carolina University in the USA, looking at case studies and best practices from all over the world.

Reflections from past crisis’ and ideas will be discussed by HE Mr Weearasak Kowsurat, Senator and former Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand and HE Mr Htay Aung, former Minister of Hotels and Tourism, moderated by the former Director for Asia Pacific of the UNWTO, Mr. Xu Jing. Mr. Steven Schipani from the Southeast Asia Department of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will lead the following session with the Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Dr. Ha Van Sieu, and the Director General of the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia, Mr. Rathasak Thong, about economic development measures as well as tourism recovery in the region.

Communicating during these COVID-19 is a challenge for many businesses – from branding, marketing, and positioning, Publisher of eGlobal Travel Media, will moderate a session with Deputy Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mr Tanes Petsuwan and Mr. Michael Marshall, Chief Commerical Officer of Minor Hotels, operating hotel brands such as Anantara and Avani. When to sell, how to discount, what message to send are all questions that we look to get answered during this insightful session.

When international travel resumes in the Mekong Region, two source markets are said to have great potential: China and Japan. We will be hearing from the Co-Founder and CEO of leading china travel marketing firm Dragon Trail Interactive, Mr. George Cao, and the Chief Research Officer of JTB Consulting, the research division of leading Japanese tour operator JTB. The session will be moderated by Senor Editor of Travel Weekly Asia, Ms Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, to get questions answered how to market to Chinese and Japanese consumers post COVID-19, how to build relationships with the trade now, and changing consumer sentiments in both key source markets.

Senior Editor of TTG Asia, Ms Marissa Caruthers will interview Mr Kelvin Lee of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and Mr Bernard Kee of leading hotel data firm STR about the latest trends and insights, and what businesses from hotels, tours, and restaurants should do to survive the crisis and how to best prepare for recovery.

Sustainability is something that needs to be part of the tourism recovery strategies, and it is an opportunity for many destinations to re-evaluate their strategies. With the sighting of animals and plants that seem to have gotten lost in the era of over-tourism, the environment seems to have recovered very quickly during these few weeks. While this is a big topic that warrants a deeper discussion, General Manager of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), Mr Roi Ariel, attempts to give some key action steps for businesses to focus on plastic pollution, climate change, child protection, and wildlife conservation, by drawing insights and recommendations from ECPAT International Program Head Ms Gabriella Kuehn, and the Ecotourism Advisor of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Ms Janina Bikova.

Responsible tourism, as well as stakeholder engagement and collaboration are and have been priority pillars of the work of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office since its inception over two decades ago. Yaana and Khiri Travel Chairman Mr William Niemeijer discusses the importance of industry collaboration, especially in times like these, with Mr. Ianic Menard, Accor’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Upper Southeast Asia, and Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office. The award-winning Mekong Moments and Mekong Mini Movie campaigns, es well as the new Mekong Memories campaign and Mekong Deals platform are examples of innovative collaborative efforts, as is the Experience Mekong Collection. Operated by Destination Mekong, the Experience Mekong Collection has curated over 350 small responsible travel businesses and social enterprises in the six member countries. For the 3rd year, in collaboration with Thailand-based Mahidol University, the six Experience Mekong Showcases will be announced during the Destination Mekong Summit, as well as the 1st of three Mekong Heroes every year, recognizing individuals that have made a difference in promoting sustainable and responsible tourism development in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Professor Dr Ian Yeoman of Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, will look at the Future by walking delegates through a scenario analysis. Lonely Planet author Mr Nick Ray, who has traveled all Mekong countries extensively will engage in a discussion with Professor Yeoman on how businesses can use the information to prepare for the future now.

Finally, in a very special session, Ms. Gloria Guevara, CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), former UNWTO Secretary General, Dr. Taleb Rifai, and former Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, Ms Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, and CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Dr Mario Hardy engage in a reflective discussion, moderated by SunX Program founder Professor Geoffrey Lipman, by giving recommendations and opinions to stakeholders in the visitor economy.

The Virtual Destination Mekong Summit is not only for travel and tourism stakeholders in the Greater Mekong Subregion alone. The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) invites travel professionals from both public and private sectors from all over the world to join us on online on August 25th. The registration fee has been waived, so registration is free at

About the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office:
The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), located in Bangkok, was set up with funding from the governments of the six Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries – Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The MTCO, which operates on annual financial contributions from each GMS country, acts as the secretariat for the GMS Tourism Working Group, comprising of senior officials of the six GMS countries’ National Tourism Organizations, to coordinate and facilitate sustainable tourism development of the GMS, and promotion of the Mekong region as a single travel and tourism destination, in collaboration with the public and private sectors. The MTCO manages its award-winning digital platform as a one-stop platform to promote responsible and sustainable tourism in the region, as well as the annual Mekong Tourism Forum, whose hosting is rotated among GMS countries.

About Destination Mekong:
Destination Mekong was created in 2017 to promote the Lancang-Mekong region, comprising of Cambodia, PR China (Provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam as a single tourism destination to stimulate responsible and sustainable development and investment, and drive inclusive growth. Endorsed by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and aligned with the mandate of the regional collaborative tourism framework of the six-member governments of the Greater Mekong Sub-region, Destination Mekong executes targeted projects and initiatives, including Mekong Moments, Mekong Mini Movie Festival, Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST), Experience Mekong Collection, Mekong Heroes, and Mekong Trends, with feedback from the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG) and via public-private partnership investment structure, led by UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies.