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Virtual Destination Mekong Summit provides actionable insights for travel and tourism industry during COVID-19




Virtual Destination Mekong Summit provides actionable insights for travel and tourism industry during COVID-19

Session videos now available online to watch for free

Bangkok, September 8, 2020: The 1st Destination Mekong Summit was organized virtually by UNWTO Affiliate Member Strategies as a lead partner of Destination Mekong in partnership with the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office on 25 August 2020. Nearly 1,500 registered attendees from over 100 countries joined the virtual conference on Zoom with an additional 500 following the live stream on YouTube and the event website.

“With the topic “Balanced Tourism Recovery for a Better Future”, the Summit had the objective to answer burning questions, offer actionable suggestions on how to survive these challenging times, and best prepare for an accelerated recovery.”, explained Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, and chair of the summit.  Speakers from the public and private sectors included Tourism Ministers and CEOs from travel companies, academia, the media, and NGOs, as well as members of the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG).

With a condensed content concept, DMS was structured in twelve short chapters starting with insights about “The Disruption” by Dr. Simon Hudson, from the University of South Carolina, author of the upcoming book “COVID-19 & Travel”. The former Ministers of Tourism of Thailand and Myanmar, H.E. Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat and H.E. Mr. Htay Aung respectively, engaged in a discussion about learnings from past crisis, moderated by Mr. Xu Jing, former Director of Asia Pacific of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This discussion was followed by a panel of senior government officials moderated by Mr. Steven Schipani of the Asian Development Bank, including Dr. Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism of Cambodia,  Dr. Sieu Ha Van, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, and Mr. Sounh Manivong, Director General of the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism of Lao PDR. Learnings about domestic tourism opening in China by representatives from the private sector and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of PR China, as well as recommendations about communications by Deputy Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mr. Tanes Petsuwan and Chief Commercial Officer of Minor Hotels, Mr. Michael Marshall provided action-oriented insights. The following chapters looked into recovery efforts and opportunities for governments, key source markets with a focus on Japan by JTB and China by Dragon Trail, the hotel and aviation sectors as key industry pillars by IATA and STR respectively, and the impact on sustainability moderated by GSTC. Two sessions were conducted in partnership with Horwath HTL and presented key takeaways for businesses.

The final chapters addressed how collaboration can help businesses in the recovery discussing strategies with Accor and Yaana Ventures, as well as a look at the future with Dr. Ian Yeoman, author of “Tourism Futures” from the Victoria University of Wellington.

A summary chapter was lead by Prof. Geoffrey Lipman from The SunX Program with global and regional tourism leaders including H.E. Ms. Gloria Guevera, CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), H.E. Ms. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, former Minister of Tourism and sports of Thailand, H.E. Dr. Taleb Rifai, former Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and Dr. Mario Hardy, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). The panel debated the need for balanced tourism recovery and the integration of climate change as an existential threat post COVID-19.

The Virtual Destination Mekong Summit was also the launch-pad of the Mekong Memories campaign and Mekong Deals platform, as well as the announcement of the 2020 Experience Mekong Showcases and the 1st Mekong Hero recognition to Ms. Potjana Suansri, founder of the Thailand Community-based Tourism Institute.

The Virtual Destination Mekong Summit was co-emceed by Dr. Jutamas Wisangsing, former chair of PATA Thailand, and Mr. Jens Thraenhart, out of a pop-up studio at co-working space Gaysorn Village in Bangkok, Thailand.

Details of the event, as well as recordings of the sessions, can be found at

About the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office:

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), located in Bangkok, was set up with funding from the governments of the six Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries – Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The MTCO, which operates on annual financial contributions from each GMS country, acts as the secretariat for the GMS Tourism Working Group, comprising of senior officials of the six GMS countries’ National Tourism Organizations, to coordinate and facilitate sustainable tourism development of the GMS, and promotion of the Mekong region as a single travel and tourism destination, in collaboration with the public and private sectors. The MTCO manages its award-winning digital platform as a one-stop platform to promote responsible and sustainable tourism in the region, as well as the annual Mekong Tourism Forum, whose hosting is rotated among GMS countries.

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About Destination Mekong:

Destination Mekong was created in 2017 to promote the Lancang-Mekong region, comprising of Cambodia, PR China (Provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam as a single tourism destination to stimulate responsible and sustainable development and investment, and drive inclusive growth. Endorsed by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and aligned with the mandate of the regional collaborative tourism framework of the six-member governments of the Greater Mekong Sub-region, Destination Mekong executes targeted projects and initiatives, including Mekong Moments, Mekong Mini Movie Festival, Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST), Experience Mekong Collection, Mekong Heroes, and Mekong Trends, with feedback from the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG) and via public-private partnership investment structure, led by UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies.

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