Rethinking for Resilience and Digitalization
Preah Sihanouk, Cambodia
25 – 27 April 2023
Preah Sihanouk, Cambodia
About Mekong Tourism Forum
The Mekong Tourism Forum 2023 returns to Cambodia
As regional tourism recovery accelerates, the annual Mekong Tourism Forum returns as an in-person event in Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia from 25th – 27th April 2023.
Hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, Kingdom of Cambodia, the Forum serves as an interactive platform for regional tourism stakeholders to discuss critical issues and emerging trends, rethink the future of Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) tourism, exchange insights and experiences, as well as reconnect face-to-face with each other.
Join the Mekong Tourism Forum 2023, under the theme of “Rethinking for Resilience and Digitalization”, to engage in constructive dialogues and discover opportunities to enhance the tourism sector’s resilience through building sustainable food systems, fostering women empowerment, accelerating digitalization, and upskilling the tourism workforce.
05 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Mekong Tourism Forum 2023
Gather with GMS travel and tourism leaders to discuss global and regional tourism recovery trends and issues.
Gain actionable insights and know-how from industry veterans to rethink the future of tourism towards a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient sector.
Engage in panel discussions with regional tourism experts on building smart destinations, advancing human capital, and redefining gender equality in the tourism sector.
Join a Cambodia-focused tourism exhibition that showcases the best offerings and examples of sustainable and smart tourism products in the country and from across the region.
Connect face-to-face with fellow regional tourism colleagues and friends amid the renowned white-sand coastline and green forests of Sihanoukville.
Past Mekong Tourism Forums
- MTF 2022 Keynote: Tourism industry has been massively hit by the pandemic. The crisis calls for a need to rethink and reshape tourism towards a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient sector. “The Future of Tourism – Rethink Travel, Rethink Destination Marketing and Management” session discussed the evolution of mega trends and their impact on travel dynamics will evolve in Asia Pacific especially within the GMS, and how tourism stakeholders should adapt.
- Expert Perspectives: The ADB Tourism Expert shared views on “Sustainably Reviving Tourism – Mekong Reflections.”, whereby the concerted policies, regulations, and investments needed to ensure tourism resilience and sustainability, emphasizing quality infrastructure, nature-based solutions, and industry-wide adoption of environmentally friendly operational practices and diversification were highlighted.
- Expert Panels: Three expert-led panel discussions were featured. The first panel session on “Social Enterprises: A Purposeful and Powerful Tool for Sustainable Tourism Recovery, Development and Promotion” explored how social enterprises offer a promising business model for inclusive growth, environmental sustainability, and positive branding of destinations. The panelists discussed knowledge, skills, and resources required to enhance visibility, legitimacy, and legal frameworks to boost the competitiveness and leverage the power of social enterprises toward sustainable tourism recovery in the GMS. The second panel, “New Ways of Connecting Sustainable Tourism Suppliers and Buyers,” examined new strategies to connect sustainable tourism suppliers and buyers with markets, financing, and nature. The panelists discussed financing instruments, partnership structures, and incentivizing mechanisms for both tourism suppliers and buyers to collaborate with each other, investors, and development partners for a resilient and sustainable future. The final panel covered “Technology: Unlocking Green Tourism Opportunities,” in which the panelists shared best practices on leveraging digital tools to maximize the positive impacts of tourism on the environment and local communities. The panel discussion highlighted the challenges, solutions, and opportunities for tourism SMEs and MSMEs to better adopt technology and integrate into the booming digital economy. Each panel presented the panelists from both public and private sectors, to ensure that their voices were well represented.
- Sustainable Tourism Exhibit: The Mekong Tourism Forum hosted the 3-day Sustainable Tourism Exhibit, showcasing sustainable tourism, community-based tourism and local community products from across the GMS.
- GMS Sustainable Recovery VDO Showcase: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s borders were blocked, all international travel was stopped, and the mobility of tourists was prohibited. Millions of people suddenly lost their jobs; the tourism industry was one of most severely hit industries. Although the tourism industry is recovering, tourism is vulnerable to threats with a number of uncertainties. There is a need for tourism sector to be more resilient and more sustainable than ever. The return of tourism to the GMS should not mean the return of the problems we encountered before the pandemic, such as overtourism, uneven distribution of tourism dividends, overreliance on too few source markets, pollution, etc. To avoid these, we need to rebuild tourism, but more than that, we also need to rebound with resilience. These were showcased in the GMS Sustainable Recovery, which featured tourism professionals’ insights on transforming tourism sector to become resilient.
- Media Familiarization Trip: In the occasion of the Mekong Tourism Forum 2022 and the Visit Vietnam Year 2022 which highlighted “Quang Nam – A Green Destination” as its theme, Quang Nam Provincial People’s Committee in coordination with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Viet Nam hosted a familiarization tour for a group of international media. The program itineraries introduced the unique travel experiences of Quang Nam provinces.
- Joint Media Statement: The 6 GMS National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) collectively announced the Joint Media Statement on the Mekong Tourism Forum 2022, highlighting the summary, the outcomes and the achievement of the event.
- Post Tour: All MTF delegates were offered exciting tours to explore the host destination in 3 different thematic routes, including Cultural Heritage Tourism route (two World Cultural Heritage Sites: My Son Sanctuary and Hoi An Ancient Town); Nature-based Tourism (Cu Lao Cham Biosphere Reserve and Tra Que Vegetable Village); and Green and Agro-Tourism (the story of Organic Agriculture and Circular Economy and Tra Que Vegetable Village).
The Mekong Tourism Forum in 2020 and 2021 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hosted by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism of P.R. China (MCT) in beautiful Dali and Xizhou Ancient Town in Yunnan from May 28-29, will focus on the theme of “Tourism – a driver for cultural heritage preservation and poverty alleviation”.
What happened at MTF 2019?
1. MTF 2019 Keynotes: Under the theme of “Tourism – a driver for cultural heritage preservation and poverty alleviation”, the discussions are varied from Tourism Development to Poverty Alleviation focus on the best practices from Yunnan province and P.R. China on the first part. The second part is focusing more on sustainable tourism development and cultural heritage preservation which is taken place by mini keynotes and panels from senior travel executives coming from different sectors, all focusing on sustainable tourism as a key driver to cultural heritage preservation and poverty alleviation. In addition to the keynotes and panels, the power of visual storytelling session has been added to promote and showcase the Greater Mekong Subregion through visual contents.
2. Experience Mekong Collection Session: At this Mekong Tourism Forum, we are excited to launch the newly Experience Mekong Collection website at www.ExperienceMekong.org. We also showcased some of the most interesting members of the Experience Mekong Collection and tell their stories that make their experience unique and inspiring.
3. Mekong Mini Movie Festival: The Mekong Mini Movie Festival is the first regional Mekong Tourism Marketing Campaign run on an international level. The member countries and private-sector partners to collaboratively promote the campaign maximising the impact as well as increasing the number of inspirational videos to inspire travellers to explore the Mekong Region. At this Mekong Tourism Forum, we concluded with a screening of some of the most inspiring videos of the 2nd Mekong Mini Movie Festival.
4. Mekong Tourism Forum 2019 Cultural Immersion Experience: The highlight of the 2019 Mekong Tourism Forum will be the Xizhou Experience, and the option to interact in interactive learning and cultural immersion workshops. In order to create a most inclusive Mekong Tourism Forum, small businesses will provide interactive cultural workshops to learn and connect with the culture of the town, including tie-dye, felt making, woodblock printing, wood carving, baba/bread making, bai cooking, silver making, bai dancing, Mahjong with locals, and weaving.
5. Plastic Free Event: The 2019 Mekong Tourism Forum continues to do its small part to raise awareness of the issue and make the event plastic free. As in previous years, the Mekong Tourism Forum continues to ban single-use plastic including plastic bags, plastic water bottles, and plastic straws. We ask all MTF 2019 delegates to respect our policy and refrain from using single-use plastic items and bring their own refillable water bottle, reusable bag, and bamboo straw (or equivalent) to the event.
6. Mekong From Above Photo Exhibition: Again for this year, the exhibition is co-curated by Jaffee Yee and a number of local photographers from Yunnan province. The second Mekong From Above photo and video contest still continue in this year in collaborating between Knowledge media group Thailand and Destination Mekong.
Hosted by the Ministry of Tourism & Sports of Thailand (MoTS) in Nakhon Phanom at the Mekong River bordering to Laos from June 26-29, will focus on the trend of transformational travel with the theme “Transforming Travel – Transforming Lives”.
What happened at MTF 2018?
1. MIST (Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism): MIST, which stands for Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism, began in December 2016 as a joint venture between the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and the Government of Australia and Asian Development Bank (ADB) supported Mekong Business Initiative (MBI). It includes a Startup Accelerator for early-stage startups from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. It also includes a Market Access Program for mature startups based anywhere in the world that want MIST’s assistance localizing proven tourism products and solutions into the Greater Mekong Subregion. MIST received more than 350 applications in 2018.
2. First Asia Film Tourism Conference: (in collaboration with Blogger Matchup) educating the industry on the importance of storytelling and how to work with bloggers and social influencers.
3. Mekong Mini Movie Festival: The Mekong Mini Movie Festival is the first regional Mekong Tourism Marketing Campaign run on an international level. The member countries and private-sector partners to collaboratively promote the campaign maximising the impact as well as increasing the number of inspirational videos to inspire travellers to explore the Mekong Region.
4. MTF 2018 Keynotes: Under the theme of “Transforming Travel”, the discussions are varied from Buddhist Tourism to Responsible Tourism focus on the potential of transforming travel and people’s lives on the first part. The second part is taken place by mini keynotes from senior travel executives coming from different sectors, all focusing on transformative travel. Our second Mekong Opportunities & Threats sessions will focus on the issue of plastic pollution in the GMS and ASEAN. 4. Mekong Village Thematic Strategy Sessions: GMS travel stakeholders make passionate pleas on important opportunities and threats shaping the tourism industry in the GMS, eight thematic strategy workshops from Adventure Tourism to Religious Tourism will be hosted in eight ethnic villages around Nakhon Phanom in North-eastern Thailand. From a traditional village welcome ceremony and a lunch authentic to the respective village, to the thematic workshop followed by an interactive village experience to engage in weaving, fishing, and other activities, delegates will be able to interact with the local people, while the local people will be able to interact with visitors from all over the world. To ensure some consistency of all the sessions, we have developed a model that is aimed to position the GMS as a competitive tourism destination. The components of the model are: Positioning, Promotion, Product Development, Partnerships, and Policy.
5. Plastic Free Pledge: The 2018 Mekong Tourism Forum tries to do its small part to raise awareness of the issue and make the event plastic free. The Plastic Issue is raised as a part of event and invite anybody to join the discussion how we as an industry can reduce single-use plastic in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Also, for the second year in a row, MTF 2018 is has designed a limited-edition refillable water bottle, as part of our MTF Plastic Free Kit. By doing that, we invite everybody to take part and do the plastic-free pledge showing your commitment to reduce single-use plastic.
6. Mekong From Above Photo Exhibition: Curated by Jaffee Yee. By this coming November 2018, the first Mekong From Above photo and video contest will be organised in collaboration between Knowledge media group Thailand and Destination Mekong.
7. Post Tours: 6 exciting experiences to explore Nakhon Phanom, hosted by Ministry of Tourism and Sports and private sector travel operators.
The 2017 Mekong Tourism Forum was hosted by the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism of Lao PDR in
Luang Prabang from June 6-9.
What happened at MTF 2017?
1. Mekong Tourism Strategy Open Forum (in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank):
We invited the travel and tourism executives to join the Mekong Tourism Sector Strategy Open Forum to learn about the new GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2025, and how the tourism strategy could be effectively implemented over the next 10 years.
2. Blogger Matchup @ MTF 2017 (in collaboration with Blogger Matchup):
Educating the industry on the importance of storytelling and how to work with bloggers and social influencers.
3. MIST (Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism):
MIST, which stands for Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism, began in December 2016 as a joint venture between the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and the Government of Australia and Asian Development Bank (ADB) supported Mekong Business Initiative (MBI). It includes a Startup Accelerator for early-stage startups from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. It also includes a Market Access Program for mature startups based anywhere in the world that want MIST’s assistance localizing proven tourism products and solutions into the Greater Mekong Subregion. MIST received more than 250 applications in 2017.
4. MTF 2017 Keynote (sponsored by Exo Foundation):
Conscious.travel founder Ms Anna Pollock addressed the MTF 2017 delegates on the theme “Prosper with Purpose”. Up until a decade or so ago, the purpose of business was never questioned – it was simply to generate a profitable return for shareholders. In less than a decade, those core beliefs have shifted radically and smart tourism enterprises and destinations are tapping into a growing desire of guests to buy from and employees to work for companies that can communicate not just what they sell but what they stand for. By serving a purpose higher than the bottom line, they unleash the passion of their employees and satisfy their guest’s search for meaning and fulfillment. Rising destinations also have the opportunity to differentiate themselves by demonstrating how tourism genuinely benefits the broader host community.
5. Mekong Tourism Opportunities & Threats:
GMS travel stakeholders make passionate pleas on important opportunities and threats shaping the tourism industry in the GMS, from child protection, community-based tourism, storytelling, preserving heritage, Chinese consumers, and food tourism.
6. Mekong Tourism Break-Through Sessions:
16 sessions hosted by local travel operators in and around Luang Prabang facilitated by tourism experts take delegates on a journey throughout the UNESCO Heritage town.
7. Post Tours:
10 exciting experiences to explore Luang Prabang, hosted by Luang Prabang Tourism and private sector travel operators.
8. Refill Not Landfill (supported by GIZ):
in an effort to reduce plastic waste, each MTF 2017 delegate received a refillable water bottle bottle, and meeting venues dubbed as refill stations. Single-use plastic water bottles were banned during MTF 2017.
The 2016 Mekong Tourism Forum was hosted by the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia in the beautiful Kingdom of Wonder of Cambodia from July 5-9 in Sihanoukville.
What happened at MTF 2016?
1. Mekong Tourism Digital Boot-Camp (in collaboration with Digital Innovation Asia & Digi.travel): educating the industry on the importance of digital, social, and mobile. The event, hosted by the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia, featured experts from BeMyGuest, Tang Dynasty (China), Egg Agency (Viet Nam), Guiddoo (India), and Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.
2. Mekong Tourism Strategy Open Forum (in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank): We invited the travel and tourism executives to join the Mekong Tourism Sector Strategy Open Forum to brainstorm how the tourism strategy foundation for the next 10 years should be set.
3. Mekong Tourism Investment Summit (in collaboration with HVS): debating investment opportunities, risks, and challenges in the GMS, to create innovative partnerships by hoteliers, airliners, tour operators, cruise companies, banks and public sector.
4. Mekong Tourism Symposium (opened by HE Dr. Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism of Cambodia): the main event of the Mekong Tourism Forum focusing on the MTF2016 theme “Authentic Experiences along the Mekong River”, with keynotes from the former Assistant Secretary General of the UNWTO, and National Geographic.
5. Mekong Food Tourism Seminar (in collaboration with Thammasat University and Chameleon Strategies): The Mekong region couldn’t be better placed to satisfy the need, and position the region as a multi-country, must-visit tourism destination. The role of food tourism in the GMS can help position the Mekong Region as a unique and exciting travel destination.
6. Post Tours: Exciting tours to explore Sihanoukville at the Southern Coast of Cambodia.
The 2015 Mekong Tourism Forum in Da Nang, Viet Nam, hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Viet Nam (MCST), the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), and the City of Da Nang, from June 15-19, 2015, features four events during four days, at zero cost registration free, including the Mekong Tourism Marketing Workshop, the Mekong Tourism Social Media Boot Camp, the Mekong Tourism Investment Summit, and the main Mekong Tourism Symposium to focus on bringing public and private sector together to collaborate, discuss, and debate on key issues to position the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) as a single tourism destination, promoting multi-country travel to secondary destinations. In addition, MTF15 will provide engaging networking, beautiful evening functions, a movie screening of an award-winning feature film, investment opportunity showcases, cooking demonstrations by Koto students during breaks, and a host destination ranked as one of the top beach destinations in the world.
What happened at MTF 2015?
1. Mekong Tourism Marketing Workshop (in collaboration with UNWTO, PATA, ATTA, GSTC, and Thammasat University): private and public sector collaboration on product development, aligned to the new Mekong Tourism Marketing Strategy, focusing on key themes and thematic routes in the GMS; from food, cruise, and community based tourism, to adventure tourism.
2. Mekong Tourism Social Media Boot-Camp (in collaboration with Digital Innovation Asia): educating the industry on the importance of digital, social, and mobile. The event features experts from facebook, Tripadvisor, Dragon Trail (China), Rezgo (Canada), Guiddoo (India).
3. Mekong Tourism Investment Summit (in collaboration with HVS, Horwath, and C9 Hotelworks): debating investment opportunities, risks, and challenges in the GMS, to create innovative partnerships by hoteliers, airliners, tour operators, cruise companies, banks and public sector.
4. Mekong Tourism Symposium: the main event of the Mekong Tourism Forum focusing on the MTF2015 theme “Unlocking the Potential of Mekong Tourism via Innovative Partnerships”.
5. Movie Screening: Gringo Trails: introduced by the film’s director and producer, movie screening of the award-winning feature film “Gringo Trails”, showing the unanticipated impact of tourism on cultures, economies, and the environment.
6. Post Tours: exciting tours to explore the region, including Da Nang City (including Marble Mountains and Son Tra Peninsula), Hoi An City (a beautiful UNESCO heritage town), Ba Na Hills, and the Cotu Ethnic Minority Community Village (one of Vietnam’s most authentic hill tribes).