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Jens with Kayaw - Myanmar - 1

Jens Uwe Parkitny

Special Advisor (Strategy)

CEO at Oway Group (Myanmar)

What excites you about the Mekong Region?

While working as a travel writer, I visited many countries around the world and was always fascinated by the diversity of people and their different traditions. In December 1999, on a private trip to Myanmar, I underwent a transformation though. I am not sure what triggered it: The light, the people, the slow pace of life or the spiritual mood that surrounded me as I moved among a 1,000-year-old Buddhist temples and shrines. The landscapes I saw through my eyes somehow seem to reflect my inner landscape. Since then, I came back and crisscrossed the region by foot, by boat, by plane, by car and on bicycle. The adventures and experiences I had along the way have all been extraordinary – sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always fulfilling for the people I encountered and myself. Therefore, I decided to make the Mekong region my home.

Tell us about your Background

I worked in the travel industry for almost three decades, initially as a travel trade journalist, specializing in sustainable tourism, and later in executive positions, doing business development for global players such as Microsoft, Expedia, and Accor Asia Pacific, with career stations in Germany, Hong Kong, and Singapore. My wife is from Myanmar and together we decided to move to Myanmar and build “Loikaw Lodge by the Lake”, a small, upscale Boutique Hotel in remote Kayah State. That was back in 2015. Shortly after opening our Lodge, The recommended the Lodge as one of the ten "Best Hotels to stay at in Myanmar". The Lodge is also featured in the "Experience Mekong Collection" that showcases “innovative, responsible travel experiences and businesses in the Greater Mekong Subregion, based on unique best practices and successful implementation and execution of innovations in responsible tourism development”. In my spare time I love to explore, mingle with local people and take portraits of the different ethnics that make Myanmar and the Mekong region so diverse and unique as a destination.

How do you want to make an impact for the region?

I strongly believe in tourism as a catalyst for economic and social development and change, if developed in a way that local communities and stakeholders benefit from it. When we built Loikaw Lodge, my wife and I were fully aware that it is challenging and risk inherent to develop even a small-scale project in Kayah State in Myanmar as that particular region was ravaged by conflict for so long, however, we went ahead to realize our vision: a small but charming lodge that could serve as a role model for similar small hotel projects, not only for Kayah State but the wider region. After all, the majority of visitors to the Mekong region are looking exactly for this: small, comfortable boutique hotels that reflect local architecture and craftmanship as well as respect tradition, fit nicely into the landscape, provide an authentic experience and a apply sustainable principles from the onset. Having realized our Lodge project from vision to implementation, allows me to apply a stakeholder perspective. At the same time, I have worked for large corporations that required a lot of strategic thinking from me. It is these different perspectives that I apply when advising Destination Mekong so it can formulate an impactful strategy.