The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) -comprising Cambodia, Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam- was the fastest growing subregion in Asia and the Pacific in 2013, showing a 17% increase in international tourist arrivals compared to 2012. This was more than double the growth rate in Asia and the Pacific and significantly higher than the 11% increase in ASEAN.Since 2002 international tourist arrivals in the GMS have grown at an average annual rate of about 12%. By country, international tourist arrivals are growing fastest in Myanmar a result of the extensive political and economic reforms that began in 2011. While Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have a modest combined share (about 15%) of international arrivals, it is important to note that each received over 200 million domestic visitors in 2013. The number of annual domestic trips in Thailand (over 100 million) and Viet Nam (over 35 million) is also significant. In 2013 the GMS welcomed 51.7 million international tourist arrivals, representing a 3% share of the global market. Over 60% of international visitors originate in Asia and the Pacific, led by China, Japan, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and Viet Nam. In 2013 China was the first or second largest source market for Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, and the third largest source market for Laos. Thailand was the top source market for Laos and Myanmar, and visitors from Viet Nam formed the largest share of international tourist arrivals in Cambodia. Long haul source markets from Europe comprise approximately 20% of international tourist arrivals and those from the Americas about 7%.
06 Jun 23Partner News
Latest Mekong Tourism Updates – June 2023The new surge of tourists visiting the Mekong Sub-Region are far more discerning these ...Read moreLatest Mekong Tourism Updates – June 2023 - News & announcementsThe new surge of tourists visiting the Mekong Sub-Region are far more discerning these days: they expect a higher level of service and expertise from tourism workers. Expectations are also high among many tourism workers, who are eager to take on more responsibilities, advance to higher- level positions, and increase their earning potential in the industry. Stakeholders in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) are hard at work helping tourism workers achieve their fullest potential, just in time to meet the returning tourist tide from across the globe. During the Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) in Sihanoukville, Cambodia last April, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)’s Chairman Peter Semone led a panel discussion on advancing human capital. The panel put a spotlight on the crucial role of governments and training centers in connecting students with hospitality businesses; how strategic partnerships with industry professionals help students gain practical skills; and suggested the creation of a Mekong Institution Program to enhance tourism workforce skills and invest in employee learning and development. While addressing workforce and skill shortages were a key concern, the panel was able to discuss reskilling/ upskilling strategies for a more resilient GMS tourism industry in the near future. Read the summary of the MTF panel discussion in the MTF 2023 Report here. Read this newsletter to learn more about tourism upskilling and resilience in the region, among other developments! Regional Spotlight: Inle Lake, Myanmar The communities clustered around Inle Lake in Myanmar order their lives around the natural rhythms of tradition and nature. A rotating market moves in a five-day cycle throughout five towns; the annual Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival finds the temple’s golden Buddha images set afloat in a grand regatta; Intha fishermen and floating farms generate sustenance as they have for generations. Inle Lake is a great place to be close to the communities and to nature. There are many things to do here, such as visiting Buddhist holy sites like Phaung Daw Oo and Shwe Indein, or taking a motorized boat around the different villages to shop for silver jewelry, tobacco “cheroots”, or knives. (Myanmar Ministry of Hotels & Tourism)
Sustainable Tourism NewsHeat wave in Asia made 30 times more likely because of climate change Unusually high temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) were recorded in monitoring stations in parts of India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Laos last month. Read more Hundreds of newly discovered species under threat in Southeast Asia’s Mekong region Nearly 400 species only just discovered in Asia’s Greater Mekong region could soon become extinct due to loss of habitat caused by human activity, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned. Read more Thailand tourism underlines move towards high value and sustainability The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is strengthening the country’s drive towards responsible and sustainable tourism at the recent Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) 2023. Read more
Upcoming Festivals10 June 2023 Via Ba Chua Xu Festival, Viet Nam. In An Giang Province in the Mekong Delta, the Ba Chua Xu temple festival is held annually from the 23rd to the 27th of the fourth lunar month. During the festival, a marble Ba Chua statue is washed and clothed, then rites performed for the next few days.Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) 22 June 2023 Horse Race Festival, China PRC. Land-locked Yunnan celebrates the traditional Dragon Boat Festival date with a Horse Race Festival: the Tibetan ethnic community show off their traditional equestrian skills through horse races, acrobatics and other competitive horse-riding feats. (China Highlights) 23 June 2023 Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival, Thailand. Held in the farming village of Dan Sai in Loei province, the Ghost Festival features a procession of masks made from thick palm-leaf stems, all painted in intricate designs and enhanced with carved noses and ears. The festival is part of “Bun Luang,” the Buddhist merit-making holiday of worshipping the spirits. (TAT News)
News from the Greater Mekong SubregionCAMBODIA
- Thailand and Cambodia consider reopening Preah Vihear temple to boost tourism and promote peace dialogue, after a 15-year suspension. Read more.
- Yunnan province witnessed a robust rebound in tourism during the 2023 May Day holiday, with more than 35 million tourist trips. Read more.
- Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) and the Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd. (LCRC) engaged in discussions on business cooperation. Read more.
- Myanmar, China PRC hold the fourth Myanmar (Lashio)-China (Lincang) border trade fair in Myanmar's capital Nay Pyi Taw. Read more.
- Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2023 reinforces revolutionized Thailand’s tourism towards sustainability. Read more.
- Vietnam Airlines to resume route connecting to Lao PDR and Cambodia on the first day of July, with a frequency of three flights per week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Read more.
08 Feb 23Partner News
Mekong Tourism Newsletter – February 2023 Issue" Why sustainable travel is an all- hands effort in the Mekong Region " ...Read moreMekong Tourism Newsletter – February 2023 Issue - News & announcements" Why sustainable travel is an all- hands effort in the Mekong Region " There’s a growing appetite for sustainable travel among global travelers, with the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) set to be one of the first beneficiaries of this trend. A new report released by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Trip.com Group, and Deloitte found 69% of respondents were actively seeking sustainable travel options for the year ahead. Nearly 60%, too, have chosen more sustainable travel options in the last few years. Finally, over three quarters of high-end travellers are willing to pay extra to make their trips more sustainable. This growing awareness dovetails with regional efforts to lower the tourism industry’s carbon footprint and improve its sustainability in the long run. Team-ups with global organisations have resulted in projects like the Lao PDR’s Sustour Laos and Cambodia’s #ONESTEPNOPLASTIC. Thailand has elevated sustainability into an all-hands effort through its Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) model, introduced to “create sustainability and inclusiveness to Thailand’s economy, society and the environment” across a broad range of sectors, tourism included. With tourists, providers and governments all working towards sustainability, we predict the GMS will make serious progress in turning the tourism industry “green, and set an example for the rest of the world. Read this newsletter to learn about sustainable travel news in the region, and other developments! Regional Spotlight: Xayaboury, Lao PDR This February, Xayaboury Province will see the Lao Elephant Festival make a comeback after a three-year break. For generations, the giant mammals have been employed in Xayaboury to carry heavy loads. The province still has the largest number of elephants in Laos, some of which you can visit at the Lao Elephant Conservation Center. Far off the beaten track, the mountainous Nam Phui National Protected Area shelters hundreds of wild elephants and many other large animals, including gibbons, tigers, silvered langurs, and Asiatic black bears. Of course, Xayaboury has more in store than just elephants. On the banks of the Mekong you’ll find Paklay, a small riverside town with French colonial buildings and traditional Lao-style wooden houses. Tai Lue villages can be found throughout the province; visitors can watch locals weave colorful traditional textiles, and buy them to take home. Finally, visit Sayabouly town to see centuries-old temples like Wat Sibounheuang, diamond-shaped Wat Siphandon, and Wat Sisavangvong. (Tourism Sayaboury)
Sustainable Tourism NewsViet Nam’s Ba Ria-Vung Tau promoting green tourism The southern region’s sea tourism capital hopes to use sustainability to accelerate tourism in the area. Their plans include developing new coastal routes and surrounding areas to encourage high-end marine tourism such as scuba diving, fishing, and coral viewing. Read more More global travelers looking for sustainable tourism options A new report by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Trip.com Group, and Deloitte reveals a heightened appetite for sustainable tourism amongst consumers, with 69% of travellers actively seeking sustainable travel options. Read more Can Cambodia become Southeast Asia’s sustainable travel capital? Cambodia announced a string of sustainability initiatives that included a Sustainable Landscape and Ecotourism Project, an anti- poaching initiative in Mondulkiri Province, and a plan to introduce Indian tigers into the forests of the Cardamom mountains. Read more
Upcoming Festivals4 February 2023 Maha Muni Pagoda Festival, Myanmar. Mandalay’s majestic Mahan Muni Buddha image is a highly cherished local religious landmark. On the full moon day of Thabodwe, devotees cook glutinous rice over bonfires that are offered to the monks at that area. Read more 18-20 February 2023 Boun Xang (The Elephant Festival), Lao PDR. Kicked off in 2006, the Elephant Festival was organised to celebrate the Lao people’s cultural ties with the elephant. The Festival will be held again in 2023 after a three-year hiatus, marking the return of elephant parades, dance performances, and night markets. Read more 27 February 2023 Sword & Pole Festival, China. Known as "a-tang-de" in the Lisu language, meaning "a festival of climbing knife- ladders", the festival’s namesake ritual shows men climbing 20-meter-high ladders with rungs made from 72 sharp knives. Read more
News from the Greater Mekong SubregionCAMBODIA Cambodia revival depends on Chinese tourists, who represent the highest spending segment of all international visitors. Read more Return of cruise ships to Sihanoukville mark a positive sign for Cambodia’s tourism sector recovery. Read more CHINA With over 45 million trips made to Yunnan during the Spring Festival, rebound in tourism volume and revenue is higher than 2019. Read more Starting 6 February, China’s travel agencies will resume outbound group tours to 20 countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, and Lao PDR. Read more LAO PDR The Fifth Thai-Lao bridge opens next year, linking Thailand’s Bueng Kan province and Lao PDR’s Bolikhamxai province. Read more Lao PDR, China reopens Boten-Bohan border gate connecting Luang Namtha (Lao PDR) and Yunnan province. Read more MYANMAR Myanmar hosts its own travel mart in Feb 2023. Read more Myanmar Airways flies travel agents to Myanmar. Read more THAILAND Thailand maintains “fully-reopen” entry rules: health insurance required only from tourists arriving from or going to countries requiring a RT-PCR test. Read more MuvMi and other tuk-tuk apps in Thailand spare tourists the hassle of haggling, making rides more accessible to foreigners Read more VIETNAM Viet Nam Poetry Day to take place on February 5 at Thang Long Citadel, Ha Noi. Read more By 2024, Viet Nam's tourism revenues will reach US$11 billion, surpassing pre-pandemic figure of US $10.8 billion in 2019. Read more
07 Dec 22Partner News
Mekong Tourism Newsletter – December 2022 IssueMekong Tourism Newsletter – December 2022 Issue - News & announcements
14 Sep 22Partner News
Destination Mekong Published The First Mekong Stories BookTo draw attention to the many people contributing to building a sustainable tourism industry ...Read moreDestination Mekong Published The First Mekong Stories Book - News & announcementsTo draw attention to the many people contributing to building a sustainable tourism industry in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and the many stories that make up the region, Destination Mekong is publishing the first Mekong Stories digital book. Destination Mekong, the private-sector-led regional tourism board that champions the Greater Mekong Subregion as a single sustainable tourism destination, has launched its first Mekong Stories book. Mekong Stories is, in part, a compendium of some of the best examples of travel enterprises within the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). It is also the genuinely inspiring stories of those people working in the Mekong’s travel sector, from the small, responsible travel businesses and social enterprises showcased in our Experience Mekong Collection, the tourism professionals portrayed in Mekong Faces, the passionate entrepreneurs featured in the Mekong Innovations in Sustainable Tourism program (MIST), to the Mekong Heroes, as well as to all the shared experiences by travelers and residents from the Mekong Moments and Mekong Minis campaigns. Dr. Jens Thraenhart, founder of Destination Mekong, said that he “firmly believes that destination storytelling is the most powerful marketing tool for a travel destination to inspire the world and build pride, in particular, a region as diverse as the GMS.” Mark Bibby Jackson, editor-at-large of Mekong Stories, says: “The Mekong is an amazingly diverse area. There are so many stories to tell. In Mekong Stories we are giving voice to the many, many people working in the region who depend upon travel and tourism for their livelihoods. For too long the travel industry has had a bad press. Now is the time to hear real people talking about the positive benefits of tourism.” Destination Mekong’s purpose is to engage the private sector, whether regional hospitality companies, small tour operators, shop owners, or individuals who provide services to visitors. “By sharing stories, we create bonds between people and bridges between cultures,” said Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong. Destination Mekong thanks its partners and supporters for this publication, including Studio DMB, UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and the World Wildlife Fund. Contributors to the publications include:
- Bertie Alexander Lawson for Sampan Travel
- Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT)
- Hayley Holden for epicarts
- Janina Bikova
- Jens Thraenhart
- Jens Uwe Pakitny
- Laurence Couton for WildChina
- Mahidol University
- Marissa Carruthers for TTG Asia
- Mekong Quilts
- Michael Biedassek for Bangkok Vanguards
- Nattakorn Asunee Na Ayudhaya
- Peter Richards
- Sampan Travel
- Small Luxury Hotels of the World
- Sophie Hartman for SustainableVN
- Suzanne Becken
- Valerie Olla for Ock Pop Tok
10 Oct 21Webinar
Recovery Update II: Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, & China , with Mekong TourismThailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, & southern China border the Mekong River. They receive over ...Read moreRecovery Update II: Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, & China , with Mekong Tourism - News & announcementsThailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, & southern China border the Mekong River. They receive over 70 million visitors yearly, not counting the over half a billion who visit Yunnan in southern China. View July 3rd Session one at https://youtu.be/p988wQqylZs. TravelMole's distinguished panel updates us on the whole Mekong region, by travel sector, followed by questions from our audience: Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of Mekong Tourism Mr. Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, Deputy Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand HE Mr. Htay Aung, Former Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar Mr. Inthy Deuansavanh, CEO of Green Discovery Laos Mr. Nick Ray, Director of Hanuman Travel Cambodia & Lonely Planet Author
30 Sep 21Partner News
Destination Mekong Hosts 2021 Mekong World Tourism Day Forum On October 6-72021 Finalists Announced for Mekong Innovations in sustainable Tourism (MIST) & Experience Mekong Showcases (EMS) to pitch at ...Read moreDestination Mekong Hosts 2021 Mekong World Tourism Day Forum On October 6-7 - News & announcements
2021 Finalists Announced for Mekong Innovations in sustainable Tourism (MIST) & Experience Mekong Showcases (EMS) to pitch at virtual Forum
Mekong travel and tourism innovators will take virtual centerstage on 6-7 October to showcase sustainable tourism initiatives and social enterprises. Register for free at https://www.destinationmekong.com/world-tourism-day-21/30 September 2021 – The Mekong World Tourism Forum, part of the two-event series of the Destination Mekong Summit, held virtually on October 21-22, will feature inspiring keynote speakers, Bangkok-based award-winning hotel designer Mr. Bill Bensley in conversation with outgoing Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, Mr Jens Thraenhart, and social impact innovator Mr. Jimmy Pham, founder of Hanoi based social enterprise and Experience Mekong Showcase recipient, KOTO (Know One – Teach One). Other featured speakers include the winner of MIST 2018, Ms Aroun Khoungkhakoune of Bamboo Lao, and MIST 2019 Finalist, Ms Ros Rotanak of Cambodia-based Chef Nak. Welcome remarks will be given by Ms. Natalia Bayona, Director of Innovation, Investment, and Education of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and Mr. Steven Schipani, Principal Tourism Industry Specialist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The forum will be moderated live from the Innovation Lab at Sasin Business School at Bangkok-based Chulalongkorn University by Ms. Wimintra Raj, founder of HotelIntel.co, and Mr. Jens Thraenhart.
The highlight, between the keynotes and the pitches of the finalists of the Mekong Innovations in Tourism program (MIST) and the Experience Mekong Showcases, is the announcement of the 2021 Mekong Hero, by the chair of the Mekong Heroes selection committee for this year, HE Ms KobkarnWattanavrangkul, former Minister of Tourism and Sports of the Kingdom of Thailand. “The concept of this year’s Destination Mekong Summit and Mekong World Tourism Day Forum event series is unique and it was to showcase local experiences and people, and will be highly inspiring and not to be missed, bringing together the passion of the people and entrepreneurs that keep the heart beating in the Mekong Region”, says Jens Thraenhart, Founder of Destination Mekong, the organizer and chair of the events, whose tenure as Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office will end after the Destination Mekong Summit.
Destination Mekong, the organizer of the MIST and Experience Mekong Collection Showcases programs today announced that 9 finalists in the three tracks (Launch, Growth, and Projects) of the Mekong Innovations in Sustainable Tourism (MIST) program and 15 finalists in the Experience Mekong Showcase program from across the Mekong Region will virtually pitch at the 2021 Mekong World Tourism Day Forum in two half–day afternoons (Indo-China Time) on October 6-7. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum will be held virtually.
The 9 finalists in the MIST program include:
Virelic Travel Guide
Discover Laos Today
Share the Wonder
Now in its fourth year, after pausing the program in 2020, with hundreds of alumni, MIST (www.mist.asia) is managed by the private sector–led regional tourism board Destination Mekong, in collaboration with the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
MIST was initially set up to help integrate Greater Mekong Subregion travel startups into the global travel and tourism ecosystem, promote innovation, and help local firms thrive in the globally competitive tourism industry. This year, MIST has evolved into a pioneering tourism innovations program, focusing on sustainability and resilience, with three tracks: Growth (registered enterprises), Launch (startups and new ventures), and Projects (innovative initiatives). MIST has attracted over 500 applications and generated millions of social shares in the first three years.
Jens Thraenhart, founder of Destination Mekong and outgoing Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office added: “Elevating the status and prestige of tourism entrepreneurship across the region, MIST is well-positioned to contribute to the rebuilding of travel and tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion by encouraging inclusive growth and responsible tourism development, via innovation and smart tourism.”
The 15 Finalists of the Experience Mekong Showcases 2021 from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand Viet Nam, as well as Guangxi and Yunnan in PR China are shown below. Due to the current situation in Myanmar, the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group board decided to recognize all shortlisted businesses from Myanmar as Experience Mekong Showcases.The 15 finalists – 3 from each of 5 member countries of the Mekong Region are: