Partnership Between Destination Mekong and AZ Group

25 March 2023, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

During the Destination Siem Reap Engagement Day on 25 March, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Destination Mekong, represented by Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO, and AZ Group, represented by Erkan Bilal, Managing Director.

AZ Group & Destination Mekong expressed their willingness to align their visions and core values and enter into a strategic collaboration towards promoting sustainable travel, Eco-friendly tourism and hospitality in Cambodia and the Mekong Region.

(pictures by Erkan Bilal)

Destination Mekong and Siem Reap Tourism Club Successfully Co-hosted the first Destination Siem Reap Networking Day

28 March 2023, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Destination Mekong and Siem Reap Tourism Club joined hands to host the first Destination Siem Reap networking event dedicated to sustainable and smart tourism.  

On 25 March 2023, Destination Mekong (DM) and Siem Reap Tourism Club (STC) co-hosted their first Destination Siem Reap networking day under the theme ‘Together Smarter Stronger’.   

Designed as a creative and interactive event, Destination Siem Reap was primarily dedicated to the community of professionals in travel, tourism, hospitality and related sectors, especially existing and potential members/partners of DM and STC. It mainly aimed to promote business collaborations and public-private partnerships and help generate tourism income and job opportunities in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and more widely in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.  

Destination Mekong and Siem Reap Tourism Club also intended to facilitate a dynamic and inclusive platform to share stories, experiences, and good practices while giving a voice to those too often excluded from mainstream conversations.  

Destination Siem Reap took place under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia and was sponsored by AZ Group as key partner, and Sathapana Bank. This local networking day was the first joint action of DM and STC, giving life to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they had signed during the 2022 Destination Mekong Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  

The Destination Siem Reap program’s main part occurred in the morning at Memoire Angkor Palace. It started with a multiplayer networking breakfast in the garden followed by a workshop featuring two sessions on 1. Promoting Siem Reap as a Sustainable Tourism Destination, and 2. Promoting Siem Reap as a Smart Tourism Destination.    

After opening remarks by Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong and Philip Kao, President of Siem Reap Tourism Club, Mr Sieng Neak, Deputy Director-General of the Tourism Development and International Cooperation Department of the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, gave congratulatory remarks. Mr Erkan Bilal, Managing Director of AZ Group, then gave a speech before the signing of the MoU between Destination Mekong and AZ Group. Through this MoU, both parties expressed their will to ‘align their visions and core values and enter into a strategic collaboration towards promoting travel, ECO-Tourism, sustainable projects and hospitality of Mekong Region at local, regional & global levels and in other related fields’. 

During the two morning sessions, ten speakers from a variety of backgrounds shared their positive experiences and inspiring stories to stimulate sustainable tourism recovery and resilience in Siem Reap. Ms. Katrine Solhaug, Owner and General Manager of Babel Guesthouse, explained how her business succeeded in surviving the COVID pandemic. She also raised concerns over noise pollution issues in Siem Reap and insisted that the support of the public sector was crucial to solving them. Ms. Sophany Mao, Director of Spoons Cambodia Organization, which provides hospitality training to disadvantaged young Cambodians, mentioned the difficulty of securing funds to train enough students in spite of many applications. 

Other speakers were (by alphabetical order):  

  • Clemy Balasoto, Founder & CEO of The Better Cambodia, who introduced the latest trends in e-marketing and how Siem Reap business can be prepared;  
  • Ty Chea, Head of Sales, Urban Living Solutions, who shared his love for Siem Reap and encouraged all to join the ‘We Love Siem Reap Campaign’;  
  • Jean-Pierre Gagnon, DCEO of Sathapana Bank, spoke about the key role of FINTECH as an important mechanism to support sustainable tourism development and briefly presented the cutting-edge services offered by Sathapana bank;  
  • Vannak Hang, General Manager of Angkor Green Gardens by Dara, talked about the property as a smart and eco-friendly accommodation;  
  • Nicolas Hatz, Tourism Development Expert at GIZ ICONE, highlighted the findings of a recent GIZ study on travel trends and travellers’ profiles in Siem Reap, urging all local operators to take advantage of it,  
  • Philippe Kao, President of STC, stressed the importance of working together and actions over words, as well as addressing labour shortage with a training project initiated by STC through funding from the Cambodian Ministry of Finance;  
  • and Torsten Munther, Managing Director of Fair Trade Village who stressed the necessity to include older people in the local tourism workforce and especially when t comes to handicrafts, so that they can also get a sustainable income and participate in community development and empowerment efforts.  

The workshop was attended by 120 representatives from the public and private sectors, including high-level officials from the Ministry of Tourism, travel operators and agents, accommodation and travel experience providers, tourism-related social enterprises, investors, developers, representatives of the academia, international development organisations and NGOs, consultants, media representatives, etc.   

In the afternoon, participants were offered the opportunity to join a two-hour cycling tour co-organized by LoLei Travel and EHT Paul Dubrule and visit handicraft workshops. This dense networking day ended with an evening party at Spoons Restaurant and Café, where guests celebrated the WWF Earth Hour 2023 with candlelight to raise awareness about the importance of saving energy.  

One of the highlights of the event was Destination Mekong’s signature cocktail, Mekong Morning, which was served to the panellists of the workshop and to all guests at the evening party.   

Philip Kao, President of STC, stressed that ‘we all know that a dream without action is a fantasy and cannot be true! That’s the reason why we are here!’  

Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of DM, mentioned that ‘to achieve tourism recovery and resilience, building trust and strong connections is crucial. Through our networking events and together with our partners, we are willing to help the industry regain confidence and bet on cooperation rather than competition. She added that it was vital to transform intentions and ambitions into concrete actions.  

(picture by Sam OL, Siem Reap Tourism Club)

 —ENDS

New Power Partners to Strengthen the Tourism Sector in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, and Beyond

24 March 2023, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Destination Mekong and GIZ ICONE recently signed a Memorandum of Interest at the Tourism Innovation Summit 2023 to collaborate as strategic partners.

At the Tourism Innovation Summit 2023, Destination Mekong and GIZ ICONE signed a Memorandum of Interest (MoI) with the goal of strengthening the tourism sector, increasing the competitiveness of local tourism providers, and creating more awareness about Cambodia and the Greater Mekong Subregion as an attractive tourism destination. The summit took place from March 23-24, 2023 and was successfully implemented by the GIZ ICONE program. The event focused on the potential and importance of innovation and, with that, on the potential in adventure tourism, touristic route creation to address customer needs, sustainability as a tool for innovation, and using the right marketing tools to cater to customers.

The summit also stressed the importance of collaboration for innovation and featured as a special occasion the official signing of the MoI between Destination Mekong and GIZ ICONE. While the GIZ ICONE program aims at improving the competitiveness of Cambodian national enterprises in three sectors (tourism, agriculture, manufacturing) in three Northwestern provinces (Siem Reap, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey) and with that, the competitiveness of the private tourism sector in Siem Reap Province, Destination Mekong has the goal to champion the Greater Mekong Subregion as an attractive sustainable tourism destination creating value, impact and opportunities for all. The MoI aims to create synergies between both organisations through mutual support and the organisation of joint activities in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, and the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Known for its ancient temples and rich cultural heritage, Siem Reap has long been a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. However, despite its natural beauty and historical significance, the tourism industry in Siem Reap has great potential for innovation in various areas besides the Angkor temples. The topics of the summit hence centred around Cambodia’s Tourism Insights Study 2022, which was conducted last year by GIZ ICONE with around 750 tourists visiting Cambodia. The study was officially presented and handed over to the Ministry of Tourism at the end of November 2022 and highlights six main areas with promising potential for future tourism development in Cambodia besides the Angkor temples: (1) culture, (2) gastronomy, (3) history, (4) islands and beaches, (5) nature, outdoors, and adventure, and (6) wellness. During the summit, tourism providers jointly developed ideas on tourism product development in several of those areas. Further information about the GIZ ICONE program are available on the Proudly Cambodian website.

 —ENDS

STEPS IMPACT REPORT 2022

Impact-report-22-English-version_Page_01

Destination Mekong

Poverty, stigma and discrimination intersect to create barriers for people with disabilities to gain equal access to education.
A lack of education prevents access to decent work, which, coupled with weak enforcement of laws, poorly designed policies and widespread discrimination, creates a multitude of barriers for people with disabilities to enter into the workforce.

For example, the Persons with Disabilities Quality of Life Promotion Act BE 2550 requires companies and organisations to hire one person with a disability for every 100 people, however 98.2% of companies opt to instead pay the fine, resulting in 2 billion baht per year being paid to the fund.

Employers in our network consist of multinationals, large corporations, SME’s, and sole traders all of whom share that they want to hire inclusively, but they don’t know how.

The distinct lack of support available for all stakeholders leaves behind an untapped talent pool.

Of the total 856,844 just 36.25% are in some form of employment, with the majority of those (53.69%) working in agriculture, and freelance labour-intensive work (23.49%). These numbers reveal a deeply unequal society which prevents the full enjoyment of rights for people with disabilities. Women with disabilities face even greater exclusion from meaningful participation in both social and family settings, as well as greater risk of violence than men.

COVID-19 has greatly exacerbated these entrenched inequalities, as people with disabilities are the first to become unemployed during an economic crisis and are not sufficiently covered by social protection systems.

Whilst our focus today is Thailand, our strategic vision for 2023-2026 is to be a leader in the region.

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Conference for responsible and conscious travel in Cambodia

Object: Press release of the conference for responsible and conscious travel in Cambodia on March 22nd, 2023

 
This Wednesday, March 22nd 2023, the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, All Dreams Cambodia, and Teuk Saat 1001 have organized a press conference to enhance a more conscious travel experience; they explained how All Dreams Cambodia is working on calculating, reducing and compensating its carbon footprint and its clients one to encourage the tourism industry in Cambodia into a more sustainable sector and join the battle against climate change.

As the conference took place during World Water Day, they honoured the achievements made so far by Teuk Saat 1001 in the access to safe drinking water in rural Cambodia and the contribution made by All Dreams Cambodia to reduce the impact of Climate Change.

Teuk Saat 1001 mission’, as a Cambodian NGO, is to improve the health and livelihoods of rural communities by establishing a decentralized communal-based solution called water kiosks providing safe and affordable drinking water. The water kiosk model, in operation since 2005, non-only strengthens access to safe water in rural Cambodia but is also proven to reduce Co2 emissions since around 17000t are avoided yearly. The drinking water production process, combined with the delivery of water jugs at home, allows Teuk Saat 1001 to be eligible for carbon finance. Indeed, since the beneficiaries receive water at home, they don’t have to boil it with charcoal or wood to make it safe for consumption.

Teuk Saat 1001 is proud to be among the few organizations emitting carbon credit globally from and for a Cambodian project since 2017.

All Dreams Cambodia was founded in 2013 by four travel specialists passionate about promoting Cambodia as an attractive standalone tourism destination. As a Destination Management Company (DMC), All Dreams Cambodia has been offering authentic and bespoke travel experiences and programs to our clients while trying our best to transform our good intentions into actions.

From the beginning, All Dreams Cambodia has always made a point to contribute positively to the socioeconomic development of our beloved country while preserving its precious natural and cultural heritage.

As All Dreams Cambodia is fully aware of the negative impacts tourism activities might have on people and the planet, All Dreams Cambodia is advocating for responsible behaviours and sustainable practices to its staff, partners, suppliers and guests.

Their sustainability endeavours are a constant work in progress and won’t fulfil our dreams of a better world alone. Therefore, All Dreams Cambodia joined hands with partners like Teuk Saat 1001 to compensate their carbon footprint and clients by buying carbon credits from Teuk Saat project’ that will directly benefit Cambodia and the rural communities.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt

hotel2019

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt

Special Advisor (China Outbound)

What excites you about the Mekong Region?

I have been connected for almost 50 years now with China's tourism, economy and culture. However, in the 21st century the other riparian countries of the Mekong have also gained in importance and global influence. It is fascinating to see how the different influences and cultural interactions have shaped distinct identities. Tourism as an instrument of peace can help to support the cooperation within the region but also between the Mekong Region and the rest of the world.

Tell us about your Background

I grew up and studied in West-Berlin, Germany, with first visits to Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong already in the 1970s. As a publisher, bookseller, tour operator, organiser of events, exhibitions and fairs and in the new millennium as Professor for International Tourism Management and Founder of the COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute East and Southeast Asia have been the center of my economic and scientific life. I retired from university and I am happy that after the pandemic all my energy can go into helping to achieve a sustainable development of tourism in the region.

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

The paradigm of Meaningful Tourism is a powerful tool to we developed during the pandemic to achieve more quality, benefits and satisfaction for all stakeholders in tourism. With trainings, publications, consulting, workshops and research I look forward to help the region to move away from Arrival Numbers as main KPI towards a concentration on a form of tourism, which cherishes quality more than quantity and give more people a chance to benefit from it.

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