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First held in 1996, the Mekong Tourism Forum is an annual government-led event dedicated to the tourism industry in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). The event provides a cooperative platform for travel and tourism stakeholders to discuss regional tourism development, along with the marketing and promotion of travel to, from, and within the GMS. It presents an inclusive, interactive, and results-oriented opportunity to encourage public- and private-sector participation in promoting the GMS as a single destination.
The Mekong Tourism Forum aims to:
The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) organized the first Mekong Tourism Forum in 1996 and led it for 10 consecutive years. In subsequent years, the private sector initiated similar events that shared the Forum’s vision and objectives. The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) revived the Forum in 2010 in Siem Reap, Cambodia with the theme of “New Roads, New Opportunities.” Since then, the GMS member countries have co-hosted this influential event with the MTCO annually on a rotating basis. Each event is designed to focus on a unique theme that addresses critical subregional tourism issues and sets future strategic directions.
Read more about past Mekong Tourism Forums below.
The Greater Mekong Subregion comprises Cambodia, China (specifically Yunnan and Guangxi provinces), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
In 1992, with assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), these six countries entered into a program of subregional economic cooperation designed to enhance economic relations.
With support from ADB and other donors, the GMS Program supports the implementation of high-priority subregional projects in agriculture, energy, environment, health and human resource development, information and communication technology, tourism, transport and trade facilitation, and urban development.
Please visit https://greatermekong.org/ for more information.
The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) started operations in 2006. It came out of the Phnom Penh Declaration on Mekong Tourism following the 16th meeting of the GMS Tourism Working Group (TWG) and is composed of senior officials from the National Tourism Organizations of the six GMS countries. The MTCO receives contributions from the member countries and was initially tasked with assisting the GMS TWG in implementing the GMS Tourism Sector Strategy (TSS) that envisioned the GMS as a unified single destination.
Over the years, the MTCO has continuously evolved and strengthened its fundamental role in fostering and facilitating effective collaboration among the GMS governments, development partners, the private sector, academic institutions, and the media on the implementation of the GMS TSS. The MTCO now serves as the secretariat for the GMS TWG to lead the development and promotion of the GMS as a single tourism destination in collaboration with the public and private sectors. It also coordinates project development and implementation under the GMS TSS and facilitates tourism knowledge production, centralization, and dissemination.
The office of MTCO is hosted by the Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand in Bangkok.
Please visit https://mekongtourism.org/ for more information.
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. The Report of the Mekong Tourism Marketing Workshop at MTF 2015 can be downloaded here.
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).