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Dear Mekong Tourism Stakeholder,

To say that 2020 has been a challenging and unexpected year is probably an understatement. Nevertheless, we are nearing the end of December, and 2021 is just around the corner. Despite our hopes and prayers for a better year, I think we need to be realistic, especially as the world is experiencing increased infections of COVID-19. A few tourism boards from all over the world were asked by the Future of Tourism Coalition to provide thoughts on what 2021 might bring. Take a look.

What are we planning for 2021 at Mekong Tourism? Instead of listing our many projects and achievements during this challenging year, I wanted to give you a quick Preview of our TOP 11 Activities for 2021:

1. COVID-19: The current pandemic remains to be a critical issue, and we will continue to update our Corona Virus Update Page, Coronavirus Government Policy Updates, and our Infographs with quick information. We also continue our support program of our social enterprises in the Experience Mekong Collection, and curate innovative initiatives by organizations during COVID-19.  

2. e-Newsletter: We will split our current newsletter in two separate newsletters. (1) One will focus on activities of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and the six tourism ministries of the Mekong Region, by providing links to relevant stories and events, as well as Corona Virus updates.  The newsletter will be designed to be short and to-the-point, to give you the most important highlights quickly. (2) The other newsletter will be the new Destination Mekong e-Newsletter showcasing updates about our programs, such as the Experience Mekong Collection, Mekong Heroes, as well as our various campaigns and co-op opportunities for the industry to get involved. This newsletter will be inspiring, featuring stories of destinations, unique businesses, passionate people, and innovative initiatives. Important: Due to privacy protection, we will ask you to sign-up to the new Destination Mekong e-newsletter next year. 

3. MIST: The Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism Program, MIST, now in its 4th year, will evolve into an exciting program, focusing on innovation to drive sustainability and resilience. Stay tuned for an exiting announcement in mid January.

4. Virtual Internship Program: We have been talking to hotel and tourism programs at universities all over the world, and in collaboration with many professors, we are working on an exciting new virtual internship program. We look to deliver passionate smart young people to travel and tourism businesses in the region. Work in progress, but a program that will be critical for the process of tourism in the Mekong Region.

5. Mekong Tourism Forum in Bagan/Myanmar: The annual flagship tourism conference of the Mekong Region, the Mekong Tourism Forum, has been moved multiple times due to COVID-19, previously scheduled to take place end of February 2021. The MTCO Board, made up of the six tourism ministries has decided at the last GMS Tourism Working Group Meeting to further postpone Mekong Tourism Forum for the 3rd Quarter of 2021. By mid year 2021, the current situations will be re-evaluated to confirm or change the dates.

6. Destination Mekong Summit: Due to the further postponement of the Mekong Tourism Forum in Bagan, we are considering to organize a 2nd Destination Mekong Summit, which will be in virtual, and possibly hybrid format. In the meantime, you can view the sessions from the 1st Destination Mekong Summit

7. Mekong Heroes: The nominations are open, and an announcement will go out beginning of 2021, to launch the call for the 2nd Mekong Hero. Please see more information at and nominate your favorite hero. 

8. Experience Mekong Showcases: We are also getting ready to start selecting the shortlist for the 4th Experience Mekong Showcases. We expect top open public voting by mid 2021, or sooner.

9.  Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG): The Mekong Tourism Advisory Group is active, and we are about ready to start forming thematic expert groups in areas such as Wellness, Arts & Culture, Culinary, Child Protection, Wildlife Conservation, and Climate Change. We have also received 20 nominations from existing members for additional people to join MeTAG. Invitations will go out soon, and are excited to further grow this important and powerful community of passionate travel and tourism professionals in the Mekong Region. 

10. Tourism Recovery Campaigns: We continue to work on our "Integrated Tourism Recovery System", which connects three tourism campaign platforms (Memories, Secrets, and Deals), powered by the powerful Enwoke technology, to stimulate local and domestic travel, prepare the industry (especially small businesses) for digital transformation, and to promote the destinations via inspiring visual storytelling to put our destinations on the list to visit once travel is possible again. In order to scale better, and receive funding to accelerate technology development, as well as to assist other tourism destinations around the world to prepare for tourism recovery, we are happy to make this innovative platform available to other governments, tourism boards, and private sector multi-stakeholder organizations all over the world. We hope to be ready to invite businesses in the Mekong Region to participate in Mekong Memories, and Mekong Deals in the 1st quarter of 2021.

11. Partnerships: We have engaged in various partnerships to focus on single-use plastic pollution (One Planet Program with UNWTO & UNEP), climate-friendly travel (SunX Program), and sustainability (Future of Tourism Coalition). We look to further engage in collaborate with partners in these important programs, to make sure that the region is as prepared and as strong for tourism recovery, once borders open again, and travel resumes.

I hope many of you will get engaged and actively participate in our programs and initiatives. 

I personally would like to thank all our partners, from individuals that have continued to encourage me and give me valuable advise (you know who you are), to organizations from ADB, UNWTO, WTTC, to many travel companies in the GMS, as well as the six tourism ministries of the Greater Mekong Subregion for having extending my contract multiple times. I would have never expected to be in this role for over 6 years, and I feel personally very honored and privileged to be allowed to be of service. 

PHOTO: Virtual GMS TWG-46 Meeting - December 3, 2020

With that, I wish all of you, your families, and your staff,  a very Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy, and prosperous NewYear! I personally hope and look forward to seeing many of you in person, as well as virtually online. 

Kind regards,

Jens Thraenhart
Executive Director
Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO)
For more detailed information, please visit
The 1st Destination Mekong Summit was a great success this year with many interesting sessions with speakers from the public and private sectors.

Recordings of the sessions, including the Chapter 4 panel discussion with the representative from Ministry of Culture and Tourism of PR China Mr. Mi Han and the owner of The Linden Centre Mr. Brian Linden to learn about China's strategies in opening tourism domestically, challenges, and solutions. The session was moderated by Mr. Yereth Jansen from Go Kunming.

All sessions are available on the event website at
The “Experience Mekong Collection” showcases small, responsible, and sustainable travel businesses in the Lancang-Mekong Region.

The Experience Mekong Collection is operated by Destination Mekong
Introducing our newest EMC Member
Bambu Stage – Siem Reap, Cambodia

Bambu Stage is a platform for performing arts in Cambodia—a performance venue with daily shows, a workshop space for Cambodian puppeteers, and a gathering space for artists and art lovers. We operate as a social enterprise and collaborate closely with NGOs, other social enterprises, and ethical businesses in the community.

The key responsibilities of business are to We have change perceptions about the history, culture, and issues that affect Cambodia and to nurture local talent in professional, technical, and artistic collaboration. In the end, the business is strongly desired to contribute to a sustainable arts sector in Cambodia.
Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project – Mandalay, Myanmar
The Irrawaddy River is home to the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, found just north of Mandalay. What’s unique about Burma’s (Myanmar) Irrawaddy dolphins is their relationship with local fishermen. Dolphins and fishermen communicate and fish together, a practice called “cooperative fishing”–a unique phenomenon found in only two other places in the world
The Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project's mission is to support fishing communities to protect Myanmar's critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins and the unique heritage of cooperative fishing by helping them to market and promote community-based tourism.

Please see all Experience Mekong Showcases here.
The Impact of Health and Hygiene on Post COVID-19 Destination Competitiveness in Asia Pacific
This report recommends that destination managers and other tourism stakeholders across the Asia Pacific region begin creating close partnerships with public health officials, tourism supply chain businesses, and local communities to commence a coordinated renewal of traveller confidence in the health and safety of their destination. Destinations that meet these expectations through investing in hygiene and safety measures and clearly communicate these changes to travellers and residents alike, will be well-positioned to win in the post-COVID-19 travel era. DOWNLOAD

Find more resources in our MTCO e-library for free download.

Most sites see a dramatic change after being put on the World Heritage List. Visitor numbers shoot up, investors both domestic and international flock to the site, and there is a flurry of media interest and community activity. Yet, one year after the listing of the Plain of Jars in Lao PDR in July 2019, things have been quiet, largely because of the impacts of COVID-19.

While over-enthusiastic development has been the biggest headache for many World Heritage sites, an absolute dearth of footfalls and economic activity can be equally worrying. Although conservation is the primary purpose for listing, many countries seek recognition with a more pragmatic view of increasing the international profile and earning income for communities. 


Explore more stories about travel and tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion. 
MTCO is delighted to support a recently launched Hackathon "Re-establishing Tourism Confidence through Innovative Digital Solutions" by the Asian Development Bank to focus on digital solutions that can contribute to Southeast Asia’s tourism recovery in the wake of COVID-19. 

The deadline for submissions is January 17, 2021. 

More information about the event, please visit
To see our new media page with our latest press releases here
MTCO is active on various social media platforms under the universal handle @TourismMekong. Please
Tag with #MekongMoments #TourismMekong and follow us:
The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office is a collaborative effort between the governments of Cambodia, China, Lao PRD, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam to promote the Greater Mekong Subregion as a single tourism destination.
Copyright © 2020 Mekong Tourism, All rights reserved.

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