www.mekongresponsibletourism.org is a unique online guide conceived to complement existing travel guides to the Mekong Region, answering to the growing demand for responsible holidays.
The main objective of the E-Guide to Mekong Responsible Tourism is to foster more responsible tourism practices by shining the light on micro, small and medium tourism enterprises, which have engaged on the path to sustainable development and to give them worldwide exposure.
The target audiences are on one hand independent travellers, who want their holidays to be a learning experience and who are concerned their own pleasure will truly contribute to the host communities’ wellbeing and development. On the other hand it provides a treasure trove of information for tour operators willing to engage on the sustainable tourism path and eager to identify responsible suppliers to work with at the destination level.
The E-Guide covers the seven destinations of the Mekong: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, VietNam, and the Yunnan and Guangxi provinces of China. It presently describes over 185 useful addresses such as sites, activities, fair trade shops, cafés and restaurants, accommodation from homestays to boutique hotels, and tour operators.
This new website was developed thanks to funds provided by the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. It was designed to optimize search engines’ recognition and to be user friendly. An internal search allows for identifying the offer by geographical area or theme, such as an offer available for families or the disabled. A French version is being developed.
Christine Jacquemin, the team project leader, explains, “The E-guide to Mekong Responsible Tourism provides inspiring examples demonstrating that tourism can indeed drive positive change. We hope it will boost the demand for such offers, which are now plentiful and cater to all budgets and types of holidaymakers. We are confident this project will contribute significantly to poverty alleviation, the cultural revival of lost skills and traditions, the protection of unique ecosystems, and the conservation of cultural heritage. It is a fantastic medium for the overall promotion of the Mekong Region.”
Each organization featured was carefully chosen through a rigorous selection process. A dedicated team of sustainable tourism consultants based in each destination have identified a list of potential applicants who thoroughly answered a questionnaire demonstrating why and how they commit to responsible tourism. The questionnaire was developed using the “Cape Town Declaration’s” (2002) responsible tourism principles as a benchmark, to ensure the organizations are committed to sustainable development and to making sure their activities are more environmentally, socially and culturally responsible.
For each destination you’ll find five main categories:
The country profile includes an overview of the history, geography, climate, and economy of the destination; a description of natural and cultural heritages sites; updated information on border crossings and visa requirements; and do’s and don’ts.
What to do sections are subdivided into four sub-categories: Community Based Tourism & Homestays presents sites managed totally or partly by the local communities themselves, often ethnic groups, who offer a perfect mix of activities within natural areas and a cultural insight into their traditions and lives. Active Holidays features adventure holidays: trekking, hiking, biking, rafting or kayaking activities mostly within protected areas. Nature Discovery describes activities for the entire family, focusing on the exploration of nature, bird watching, boat cruises, homestays in ethnic villages, easy hikes, nature trails, and night safaris into protected areas. Arts & Culture gives you information on sites and museums, or sometimes shops where you will get a genuine cultural experience, Body & Mind Healing indicates where you can go to unwind, relax, meditate, and pamper yourself from head to toe.
Where to stay includes a range of small-size accommodation that ranges from comfortable homestays to simple huts, from boutique hotels to farms, and from rural accommodations to urban chic or seaside resorts.
Where to shop gathers a unique selection of the best shopping addresses where you’ll find everything from clothes to home decoration, organic food or beauty products, and crafts made out of recycled materials into the finest handmade crafts perpetuating centuries-old skills and cultures.
Where to eat promotes bars, restaurants, and food outlets, most working as application schools to support the education of street kids or disadvantaged youth and help them and their families.
Other sections include an interactive Google map, The Responsible Tourism section that gives basic definitions of what responsible tourism is as well as cultural and environmental tips, and links to our parent website’s resource knowledge centre on sustainable tourism.
This E-Guide to Mekong Responsible Tourism is a revamped version of the initial printed version of the “Socially Responsible Tourism Guide to the Mekong” first designed in 2008 with loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as part of the Mekong Tourism Development Project to support sub-regional cooperation for sustainable tourism, and which covered Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam. Some 5,000 copies were distributed. In 2009, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) ASEAN Competitiveness Enhancement Project (ACE), first supported the development of an online version that was hosted under the www.mekongtourism.org and www.exploremekong.org websites, but was then fully absorbed into the Explore Mekong site in 2011.
For more information:
Email to: Contact@mekongresponsibletourism.org
To view the E-Guide to Mekong Responsible Tourism, visit: www.mekongresponsibletourism.org.