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Welcome to the 9th edition of our Mekong Tourism Newsletter.

While many are still enjoying the summer holidays, we wanted to use this August edition of the MTCO Newsletter to give a recap of the Mekong Tourism Forum in Sihanoukville with the theme "Authentic experiences along the Mekong River" last July, hosted by the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia.  Opened by HE Dr Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism of Cambodia, and the Governor of Sihanoukville, as well as a welcome video message by Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, we witnessed thought provoking speeches and debates, including a keynote by the former Assistant Secretary General of UNWTO and founding President of WTTC, as well as top speakers from National Geographic, Yaana Ventures, Air Asia, WWF, Accor Hotels, Song Saa Island, Pandaw Cruises, just to name a few. The summary articles can all be viewed at, photos can be viewed at and, and presentations can be downloaded at We thank all sponsors, speakers, media, and delegates for their valuable contribution in taking time out of their busy schedules to attend MTF 2016.

Read about some of the MTF 2016 sessions and some impressions from our delegates below:

"Through the Mekong Tourism Forum 2016 and its rich program of presentations, panels and networking events, I had the pleasure and the privilege to share insights and authentic experiences with passionate people. The MTCO truly managed to build a dynamic environment for inspiration, transformation, and action. I look forward to the next edition!" – Catherine Germier, CEO & Founder, Millennium Destinations

"The 2016 MTF brought in an impressive group of speakers, covering interesting and relevant topics. It was clear based on the participants' enthusiasm and comments that they found the information and discussions useful and engaging." – Randy Durband, CEO, Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)

“The Mekong Tourism Forum workshops were focused on key issues such as sustainable tourism and the role digital marketing can play in the future in terms of delivering tourists from new markets to countries centred around the Mekong river. Environmental concerns and infrastructure limitations were raised on numerous occasions and the necessity of keeping Mekong tourism activities authentic was also highlighted.”— Naidah Yazdani, Asia Director, Compagnie Fluviale du Mekong by CroisiEurope

As we are planning some exciting initiatives, we hope to be able work with many of you.
Jens Thraenhart
Executive Director - Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office

Authentic Travel Key to Mekong Tourism Future 

"Tourism industry stakeholders should develop and protect authentic travel experiences to ensure that the Mekong region does not become a victim of its own success", said Minister of Tourism, Cambodia HE Dr Thong Khon during the opening session of the Mekong Tourism Forum 2016, July 6, in which he welcomed more than 200 delegates to Sihanoukville. 
“Openness” Key to New Mekong Tourism Strategy  
Open Forum at MTF discusses new Tourism Strategy. HE Mr Tith Chantha, Secretary of State, Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia said that the updated tourism sector strategy must be “creative, competitive, innovative, agile, data-based, integrated, equitable and resilient”.

Former UNWTO Assistant Secretary General: Climate Change is Tourism’s Existential Threat

Prof Lipman highlighted the need to develop a “green growth tourism strategy” in the Mekong region in order to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change. 

Authentic Travel Experiences make common sense 

Expert panel discussed what the region has to offer in terms of experiential travel and what can be done to enhance the experiential travel as a means of meeting consumer demand, supporting local development and ensuring sustainability.

Congestion Concerns for Mekong River Cruise Operators 

The panellists agreed that there were too many ships for the extant docking infrastructure, especially at main river ports such as Phnom Penh. 

“No such thing as traditional food”: Cambodia’s Master Chef

After hearing delegates spend some time discussing how to connect travellers with authentic food, either using top-down (defining recipes and certifying restaurants) or bottom-up approaches (allowing local foodies and local food trends to guide travellers and the industry), Luu Meng said there was no such thing as traditional or “authentic” food. 

Experiential Tourism; Your Place is Your Product 
Experiential tourism is simple: “Great places to live are great places to visit”, James Dion, Sustainable Tourism Program Manager at National Geographic Maps said. 
Children, Animals & Responsible Tourism

Comedian WC Fields famously suggested that one should never work with children or animals. However, responsible tourism stakeholders in the Mekong region feel an obligation to protect them. The impacts of tourism on children and wildlife were the focus of a panel discussion about “Keeping Authentic Experiences Alive” at Mekong Tourism Forum 2016.

See more here

Sharing Economy Benefits Remote, Emerging Destinations

Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) Executive Director Jens Thraenhart posited that the sharing economy, as it relates to tourism, is a way for travellers to find authentic experiences and for local residents to supplement their incomes. 

See more here

Hotel Investment Challenges in the Mekong

A panel discussion on “Hotel Investment in the GMS” at the Mekong Tourism Investment Summit explored a wide range of topics including human resource development, energy, and water. 

See more here

MTCO has activated accounts on various social media platforms under the universal handle @TourismMekong to engage with stakeholders and disseminate content. Please follow us by clicking on the links below.

Mekong Tourism is a collaborative effort between Cambodia, China, Lao, Myanmar, Thailand,
and Vietnam to promote the Greater Mekong Subregion as a single tourism destination.
Tag with #TourismMekong - Follow us @TourismMekong
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