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Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and Mekong Institute partner on new Mekong COVID-19 Innovations Crowdsourcing Initiative





Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and Mekong Institute partner on new Mekong COVID-19 Innovations Crowdsourcing Initiative


Curation of innovative ideas and initiatives in the Greater Mekong Subregion during the Corona Virus pandemic to instill consumer confidence and encourage investment


Bangkok May 26, 2020: Covid-19 is a terrible shock to the global economy as well as the thousands of individuals and families it has affected. Companies in the immediate term need to ensure that the health and safety of its workers, partners and suppliers come first. Over the longer term, Covid-19 has irrevocably changed the way businesses will compete over the next decade. Firms that choose to capitalize on these underlying changes will succeed and the ones that don’t will get disrupted.


The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), Destination Mekong, and the Mekong Institute (MI) have partnered on a new initiative to encourage anybody to crowdsource newly spotted innovations reacting to the current Covid-19 pandemic in the Greater Mekong Subregion (Yunnan and Guangxi in PR China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam). Innovations may come from government, large companies, small businesses, startups, individuals, or partnerships.


The goal of this Mekong initiative is to instill consumer confidence of residents and tourists by visualizing tangible initiatives being innovated and implemented. The showcased innovations may also inspire businesses and organizations in other Mekong countries to adapt and learn from these initiatives. Finally, this initiative may also attract foreign investment into the region as it positions the region as being innovative, resilient, and creative.  Innovations can be shared and viewed at


Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO): “The outbreak of the COVID-19 disease has posed great challenges to the worldwide economy and the and people’s lives in the Greater Mekong Subregion with far-reaching consequences beyond the spread of the disease. At the same time, crisis is also a strong driver of creativity and innovation, and provides a trigger for thinking differently.” The Chinese characters for crisis capture this well; the word is assembled from two pictograms, one for “threat” and the other for “opportunity.  He added: “Indeed, if examined closely, one can already observe abundant creativity and innovation emerging at the national, institutional, organizational, and individual levels within the countries affected by COVID-19.  We already see that various innovations are born out of need and desperation, from startups to established businesses, including a Rice ATM in Vietnam, mobile tracking apps, and a sharing pantry in Thailand.”


We can expect interesting innovations to come out of this pandemic, that may even lead to new ventures and successful companies, as we have witnessed from passed crisis, such as SARS and the 2008 financial crisis. The SARS pandemic of 2002-2004 catalyzed the meteoric growth of a then-small e-commerce company called Ali Baba and helped establish it at the forefront of retail in Asia. This growth was fueled by underlying anxiety around traveling and human contact, similar to what we see today with Covid-19. The financial crises of 2008 also produced its own disruptive side effects. Airbnb and Uber shot up in popularity across the west as the subprime crises meant lower savings and income for the masses, forcing people to share assets in the form of spare rooms and car rides in order to cover for the deficit.


“While COVID-19 threatens the global community, it is also channeling creativity in coping with this pandemic disruption,” said Mekong Institute Executive Director Dr. Watcharas Leelawath. He emphasized how this crisis can serve as a catalyst in sparking innovation and investment in the region. “MI and MTCO aims to surface innovative practices and solutions—from agriculture, health, education, tourism, environment, trade and logistics, among others—that are generating benefits and opportunities,” he added.


This is the first partnership between the two organizations focusing on economic development, inclusive growth, capacity building, and sustainability in the member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion.


People are invited to share their spotted innovations on   The most inspiring innovations will be featured on the website, newsletters, and social media channels of MTCO and MI. It is also planned to publish a future Mekong Stories book to showcase the stories behind the innovations and innovators.


Finally, amid the current COVID-19 crisis, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office has set up the “Support Experience Mekong Collection members” page on its website to help small businesses struggling to survive the crisis due to financial strain and lost revenues. The page lists businesses that are asking for donations or selling gift certificates. MTCO Executive Director Jens Thraenhart remarks: “Experience Mekong Collection members provide these locally authentic experiences to travelers and residents alike, which make the Mekong Region so exciting and interesting. Connecting with local culture and its people is the foundation of the Experience Mekong brand. Now these experiences are in danger of not surviving these difficult times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses are struggling to pay their employees, and cover their expenses. We all have a duty and a responsibility to now help these operators, for the better of sustainable and responsible tourism of the region for the short-term and the long-term.”  The page can reached 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.

Please visit for more information.


About Destination Mekong:

Destination Mekong was created in 2017 to promote the 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.

Please visit for more information.


About Mekong Institute:

Mekong Institute (MI) is an intergovernmental organization (IGO) founded by the six member countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), namely Cambodia, P.R. China (Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. MI provides, implements and facilitates integrated human resource development (HRD), capacity building programs and development projects related to regional cooperation and integration.  The goals and strategies support the GMS Cooperation Program and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), emphasizing enhanced physical connectivity in the GMS economic corridors and the realization of the GMS/AEC target of a single market and production base, equitable growth, and sustainable resource management. Currently, MI’s programs and activities focus on three main thematic areas: Agricultural Development and CommercializationTrade and Investment Facilitation, and Innovation and Technological Connectivity. Please visit for more information.

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