Destination Mekong Announces Third Mekong Hero


7 December2023, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Destination Mekong has announced that Brian Linden, the founder and owner of the Linden Centre in Dali, Yunnan, is the third Mekong Hero.

Mekong Heroes are individuals who make a significant impact on the people in the region by inspiring them to strive and make an impact to improve communities through sustainability, inclusiveness and providing opportunities for the future.

During the 2023 Destination Mekong Summit in Phnom  Penh, Destination Mekong has announced its third Mekong Hero, Brian Linden, founder and owner of the Linden Centre in Dali, Yunnan, China. Brian follows Potjana Suansri, Founder of the Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute (CBT-I), and the late Srey Bandaul, founder of PHARE in Cambodia, the two previous Mekong Heroes.

Born and raised in Chicago and educated at Johns Hopkins and Stanford University, Brian was granted a scholarship to study in Beijing in 1984 and spent the following three years in China.   He moved to Dali in 2004 with his wife and two sons. There, he preserved a nationally protected Bai-style courtyard house built in 1948. He converted this into The Linden Centre to create a sustainable model of tourism development and heritage preservation.

Now, the Linden Centre has six sites, each focusing on preserving existing historical traditions by incorporating the villagers in the planning and managing heritage hotels.

Brian’s approach is to show the benefits of heritage protection and sustainability through example. He inspires his communities to preserve their heritage and reevaluate their sustainability approach. Through this bottom-up approach, the Linden Centre demonstrates how a social business can be financially sustainable and resilient, as well as helping the government recognize the social benefits for locals.

The integration with locals and communities is stressed at the Linden Centre.

“Development has to happen organically from within the community,” says Linden. “It is important to instill pride in the locals for their heritage and community, to increase the emotional value and counterbalance the potential value received from outside investors, who might change a community for the worse.”

“Brian exemplifies how individuals who have a passion for collaboration, preservation, and sustainability make communities better through tourism,” says Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong. “After Potjana Suansri and Srey Bandaul, Brian Linden is the continuation of telling the stories of inspirational individuals in the region. We want to congratulate Brian and the entire team at The Linden Centre for their wonderful and important work.”

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected as this year’s Mekong Hero by the Board of Destination Mekong, especially since this is a recognition by the entire Mekong Region’s private sector, ” said Mr. Linden.

Mekong Heros are nominated by the public on the Destination Mekong website, evaluated, and then voted on by the executive board of Destination Mekong. They are an extension of the Mekong Faces program, which tells inspiring stories of individuals in the tourism sector. Both are published annually in the Mekong Stories book at

To nominate individuals to be recognized as Mekong Heroes, go to To be part of our engaged tourism community and enjoy the benefits and opportunities offered by Destination Mekong, go to or contact us at


Destination Mekong Summit 2023: Embark on a Journey of Empowerment and Engagement

27 November 2023, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Destination Mekong invites the tourism industry to their 4th edition of the Destination Mekong Summit on 6 and 7 December in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, under the theme “Mekong in Motion, Mekong Emotion(s)”.

Destination Mekong (DM), the private regional tourism organization of the Mekong region, is thrilled to announce the highly anticipated Destination Mekong Summit 2023 (DMS23) set to take place in the vibrant city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and simultaneously online on December 6th and 7th, 2023.

Hosted annually, the premier event of the tourism industry in the Mekong region provides a unique and dynamic platform for all industry stakeholders – policymakers, practitioners, thinkers, changemakers, and investors to come together, exchange ideas and insights, and contribute to sustainable tourism growth in the region.

Fostering Tourism Innovation and Sustainability in the region

With a focus on innovation and sustainable tourism practices, DMS23 aims to foster collaboration, provide a platform to exchange ideas and devise strategies to propel the tourism industry forward responsibly and harmoniously.

Hosted at the Sales Center of its key partner and Destination Mekong executive board member OCIC Cambodia, the Summit will offer a blend of in-person and virtual engagement, ensuring accessibility and inclusivity for a global audience.

Insights and Dialogues Driving Change

Attendees can anticipate a dynamic agenda featuring inspiring stories by key players, dynamic panel discussions, and interactive workshops covering a diverse range of topics critical to the region’s tourism landscape.

Over two days, the afternoon plenary panel sessions include:

  • The Future of Travel in the Mekong Region: What to Watch in 2024 and Beyond;
  • Empowering Tourism Players with Essential Skills and Standards;
  • Nearing a Zero-Waste Tourism Future through Innovation and Collaboration;
  • Sowing the Seeds of Change through Food, Farm and Agri-Tourism;
  • Advancing a dynamic model of adventure and community-based eco-tourism for the region;
  • Championing the Region as a Creative and Transformative Tourism Hub.

For the first time, the event will also feature personal “Mekong Stories” of individuals working in the tourism industry, including Dr Jens Thraenhart, Founding Partner of UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies, François Schnoebelen, Director of EHT Paul Dubrule, Melita Koulmandas, Founder & CEO of Songsaa Collective, and Sokleap Ngon, CEO and Co-Founder of Smiling Gecko Cambodia.

“Looking at the agenda for this year’s DMS, I am struck by the amazing talent within the Mekong region and the really positive future for both the Mekong Region and Destination Mekong as an organization. Mekong is in motion and there is only one direction – forwards!”, praised Mark Bibby Jackson, Chair of the DMM Executive Board. A full program and speaker list can be found on the event website at

“The 4th Destination Mekong Summit is an important milestone since the launch of this important private-sector-led regional destination marketing organization for the Greater Mekong Subregion as part of an innovative public-private sector framework alongside the public-sector owned Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office. I look forward to attending the event in Phnom Penh to join other industry professionals and debate how to make tourism a force for good to drive balanced tourism growth and inclusivity and build back better after the pandemic to create jobs and strengthen communities. This is a critical event for busy tourism professionals to carve out some time to focus on collaboration and cooperation in the industry,” said Jens Thraenhart, Founder of Destination Mekong.  

Mekong in Motion, Mekong Emotion(s)

The DMS23 offers ample opportunities for networking and business development among tourism stakeholders from various backgrounds, fostering connections and partnerships that can drive positive change in the Mekong tourism sector.

In particular, The Summit’s first day will conclude with a networking reception at the DIB Club at Aquation Park, featuring an exciting Mekong cocktail competition and offering attendees a relaxed atmosphere by the poolside, just a 3-minute walk from the main venue.

The Summit will also feature a marketplace designed as a journey towards exploring a variety of key players of the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries in the Mekong region.

The second day of the DMS23 will start with an industry matchmaking breakfast and two concurrent series of workshops. Participants will have the opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge through hands-on workshops and training sessions.

Workshops on the morning of 7 December cover the topics of:

  • Protecting children and vulnerable communities
  • Digital Transformation for the tourism and hospitality sector
  • Simplifying sustainability: 4 key ingredients to authentic action that makes an impact and doesn’t cost the earth.
  • Promoting Cambodia as a Wellness Destination
  • Re-enchanting Mekong Destinations: The Case of Phnom-Penh

“We invite everyone working in the tourism sector in the region to the Destination Mekong Summit. It is not just an event; it is a movement calling for action and connection, a catalyst for innovation through collaboration, and an inclusive community inviting all its members to engage in the positive transformation of the Mekong region,” stressed Catherine-Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong.

Join the Conversation

Registration for the summit is currently open. Interested participants can visit the official DMS23 website at for more information, speaker details, registration options, and partnership and sponsorship opportunities.


Destination Mekong Takes a Step Further with its New Executive Board

6 July 2023, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Destination Mekong held its second Annual General Meeting and announced the composition of its new executive board of directors.

Destination Mekong (DM), a membership-based destination management and marketing organisation championing the Mekong region, had its second Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 4 July 2023. The AGM took place virtually, with full and affiliate DM members in attendance worldwide. The meeting started with remarks by Mark Bibby Jackson, Chair of Destination Mekong’s Executive Board of Directors, Melita Koulmandas, Vice-Chair of the Board, and Gerrit Kruger, Chief Marketing Officer of Destination Mekong. It continued with a presentation by Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO, on the current status of the organisation, its strategies and action plan to engage and serve its community of members and partners.

The Chair of the Board thanked the executive team for all their work this past year. “We are seeing that Destination Mekong is well positioned to play its role as a supporter of the small players in the region. Micro and small tourism businesses make up most jobs in the region and greatly impact their communities and the environment. Our goal of promoting sustainable and inclusive tourism ecosystems in the Mekong region, creating value together with our members and partners is now more relevant than before”.

Together | Stronger | Smarter

The CEO of Destination Mekong introduced the creative partnerships and collaborations developed over the past year, materialised by a series of multi-stakeholder events such as the Destination Mekong Summit in December 2022, Destination Siem Reap, a program of webinars and workshops organised for members. “Our focus is to increase the value and benefits we offer to our members through building their capacity and providing them with better access to markets, networks, tools, technologies, funding, and business opportunities, together with our partners. We are willing to facilitate an innovative platform to promote sustainable and inclusive tourism ecosystems creating value for all involved players in the Mekong region. We will also create local chapters to engage with professionals and businesses at a grassroots level.”

Members are invited to join three new working groups: Cruise & River-based tourism, in collaboration with FrauBlau by tmf dialogue marketing in Germany; ecotourism & community-based tourism; and tourism & hospitality certifications.

Moreover, Destination Mekong will focus on already launched initiatives and solutions, such as its Experience Mekong Collection (EMC), featuring eco-friendly tourism experiences offered by small businesses in the region in the categories STAY, DO, TASTE, TOUR, SHOP, and CRUISE. Catherine Germier-Hamel commented, “Unfortunately, several EMC members had to close during the Covid-pandemic, and many are still struggling after these difficult years. We invite all of them to join us to jointly rebuild a strong committed network and strengthen the Mekong region’s tourism industry.”

Mekong in Motion | Mekong Emotion(s)

Gerrit Kruger presented last year’s Mekong Stories book and website with Mark Bibby Jackson, also the Editor in Chief of the publication. “It is important that we tell the stories of individuals and the impact they make on the industry,” said Gerrit Kruger. “It is amazing to see the inspiration others find when listening to those voices, which are normally not heard. Even though many small business owners in the hospitality and tourism sector face challenges, they become stronger when working with others. We invite everyone to send us stories for the next issue of the Mekong Stories book to show that tourism is a force for good.”

Then, Full members elected four new board members, corresponding to half of the board members to be elected or re-elected every year for a two-year term, according to the DM Charter. The other executive board seats are given to supporting organisations, and ex officio seats are for the CEO and the founder, Dr Jens Thraenhart.

The eight candidates for the four seats open to elections introduced themselves before the vote through an online system. By the Charter, full members were invited to rank the candidates by order of preference.

As a result, three people are now officially joining the Executive Board:

  • Nikolas Hatz, Managing Director | HatzConsult and Lead Consultant & Tourism Development Export | Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
  • Hannah Pearson, Founder | Pear Anderson and Regional Director Asia | Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA)
  • Phan Thanh Ha, Partnership Officer | ASSET – H&C network

One board member was confirmed in his position:

  • Guido Neil, Director Special Operations | 12Go

Additionally, new Board Members representing the most significant financial contributors to Destination Mekong are:

  • For the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC): Thierry Tea, Vice President
  • For the World Wildlife Fund (WWF): Jedsada Taweekan, Regional Illegal Wildlife Trade Program Manager for WWF-Greater Mekong
  • For Confluences: Dara N. Van, Business Development & MarCom Manager
  • For Control Union: Dilum Wijenayaka, General Manager, Control Union Cambodia
  • For the AZ Group: Lim Bunsour, Chairman

“We are happy about having a very experienced executive board and thank all outgoing members for their commitment, “ said Mark Bibby Jackson, adding that “all small- and medium-sized businesses and the many individuals working in tourism are making a large positive impact in the region, and we have to work together to overcome our challenges. That’s why Destination Mekong is championing the private sector and driving change for the better.”

To be part of our engaged tourism community and enjoy the benefits and opportunities offered by DM, go to or contact us.


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)


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.


2022 DMS Celebrates the Power of Collaboration for Sustainable Tourism Recovery in the Mekong Region

22 December 2022, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Destination Mekong gathered considerable interest at the 2022 Destination Mekong Summit in Phnom Penh and online.

As part of its action plan to boost tourism recovery in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), Destination Mekong, the private-sector regional tourism board of the GMS based in Cambodia and Singapore, hosted the third edition of its Destination Mekong Summit (DMS) on 14-15 December.

The hybrid 2022 DMS took place on Koh Pich island in Phnom Penh and virtually, under the theme ‘Together – Smarter – Stronger’, with the primary objective to foster synergies and partnerships to support tourism recovery in the GMS.

During two days, hundreds of participants attended the 2022 DMS in person or online, including high-level officials, private-sector decision-makers, professionals, influencers, social entrepreneurs, educators and students involved in travel, tourism and hospitality in the Mekong region.

The program of the Summit featured eight thematic panel sessions at the Sales Center of OCIC Cambodia, the main venue partner, and at Aquation Park Office park.   

Three of the sessions were co-led in collaboration with supporting organisations:

  1. ‘Championing the GMS as a sustainable tourism destination’ with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature – WWF, a key partner of the 2022 DMS;
  2. ‘Practicing social responsibility and inclusiveness in tourism’, with ECPAT International and the participation of H.E. HOR Sarun, Secretary of State, Ministry of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia, as a guest panelist;
  3. ‘Catching the value of local culture, know-how and creativity’ with Beyond Retail Business – BRB in Cambodia.

Other panel sessions address a variety of subjects, such as innovative capacity-building, sustainable food & beverage, business recovery marketing and branding, smart, sustainable tourism business models and tools, and opportunities and threats for tourism recovery in the GMS.

On 14 December 2022 afternoon, the Destination Mekong Summit was launched with opening remarks by Ms Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong, followed by welcome and congratulatory remarks by H.E. Mr Meng Hong Seng, Director of the Mekong Cooperation Department, General Department of Cooperation, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Mr Sieng Neak, Deputy Director-General, Tourism Development & International Cooperation of the Ministry of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Mr Li Yanhui, Principal of the World Youth Tourism and Hospitality School (WYTHS) in Phnom Penh which facilitated a group of supporting staff for the 2022 DMS, Mr Thierry Tea, Vice-President of OCIC Cambodia, Mr Harry Hwang, Director of the Regional Department of Asia and the Pacific of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Dr Jens Thraenhart, Founder of Destination Mekong, and Mr Mark Bibby Jackson, Chair of Destination Mekong.

In his remarks, H.E. Mr Seng Meng Hong mentioned that ‘undoubtedly, with strong commitment and collective efforts, our tourism industry in the [Greater Mekong] subregion will certainly transform towards sustainable and more socially resilient tourism.’

Mr Sieng Neak, Deputy Director-General, Tourism Development & International Cooperation of the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia, mentioned that ‘the theme of the 2022 Destination Mekong Summit […] is in line with our campaign “Think Together, Act Together, and Take Responsibility Together” which means that we have to work together to recover and rebuild our tourism industry during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.’

Dr Jens Thraenhart, the founder of DM, previous Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and current CEO of Barbados Tourism, spoke about the journey to launch DM with solid support from the private sector. He thanked the interim board and welcomed the newly elected executive board of directors. Dr Thraenhart stressed the importance of making the organisation sustainable through partnerships in the many innovative and award-winning initiatives DM is managing, including the Mekong Minis movie festival, the Experience Mekong Collection, the Mekong Innovations in Sustainable Tourism (MIST), Mekong Stories, and future programs, targeted to build capacity and importantly generate revenue for the private sector in the region. The first day ended with a networking reception where bartending professionals from WYTHS prepared and served the Mekong Mornings, the signature cocktail of the 2022 DMS designed by mixologist Romain, Voodoo Boulevard. 

The second day of the 2022 DMS started with a business matchmaking breakfast hosted by silver sponsor Control Union Cambodia. ‘Control Union is pleased to join the Destination Mekong Summit 2022 to support sustainable tourism development in the region. We must reinforce the tourists’ positive experience, respect the environment, people’s rights, culture, and traditions and promote business viability over time. We are strongly committed to working with all stakeholders in the tourism industry in capacity building and certification services,’ mentioned Dilum Wijenayake, General Manager of Control Union Cambodia.

The breakfast was followed by three parallel workshops and training sessions, including ‘Training of tour guides as wildlife champions and agents for positive changes’, led by WWF, ‘Sustainable tourism recovery with child protection in focus’, led by Ms Gabriela Kuhn, Head of Programme of ECPAT International, and ‘Digital marketing for travel and tourism businesses’ led by Gerrit Kruger, Chief Marketing Officer of Destination Mekong.

‘Global travel and tourism are making a comeback, but it is important that we don’t revert to old behaviours,” said Jedsada Taweekan, head of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Illegal Wildlife Trade program, adding that ‘The way forward must be green and sustainable, and consider the needs of wildlife and the environment in addition to the needs of travellers. Therefore, working with the travel and tourism sector to encourage tourists to have responsible tourism experiences – at the minimum by refraining from consuming wild animal meat or buying wildlife products as souvenirs – is a small but effective way to promote positive change in tourist behaviour.’

From her side, Gabriela Kühn, Head of the Programme of Child Protection in Travel and Tourism – ECPAT International, stressed that ‘Practicing social responsibility and inclusiveness for tourism development can only happen through human rights approach. Actions to address adverse impacts on children’s rights need to be scaled up by governments and companies in cooperation with civil society organisations. The Destination Mekong Summit allows stimulating action of jointly building sustainable tourism destinations that protect children.’

Thierry Tea, VP at OCIC Group, stressed that ‘At OCIC, we are excited to explore collaborations with key players from the public and private sectors as well as non-profit organisations from the Tourism industry to showcase more interesting areas such as Preah Vihar, Battambang or Mondulkiri. This was made possible thanks to the network assembled by Destination Mekong. ‘Mr Tea added, ‘ With over 550 employees within our Hospitality division, OCIC and Canadia Group strongly believe in continuing to work on synergies with Destination Mekong and its partners. OCIC is committed to investing and developing innovative initiatives for sustainable and responsible Tourism in Cambodia and the Region. We are looking to continue contributing in shaping talents with skillsets and mindsets for a more inclusive ecosystem with new partners thanks to this platform’s channels.’

For Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong ‘The 2022 Destination Mekong Summit was not only a perfect conclusion to this year of transition but also an ideal welcome to an upcoming year of recovery and reinvention for the global tourism industry, globally and in the Mekong region ’. Ms Germier-Hamel stressed the role of the private sector as the main economic driving force in the region, the most significant job creator as well as an innovator in tourism and is inviting all to join Destination Mekong as a network of like-minded individuals, to drive prosperity, through sustainability and inclusiveness in the region.

The 2022 Destination Mekong Summit ended with a garden party at the Whale House and an exceptional music performance called ‘Mekong Fantasy’ created by composer Philippe Javelle with sounds from the region.

The agenda is available at Recordings of the sessions will be made available under the same link shortly.



5 December 2022, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Destination Mekong will hold its 2022 Destination Mekong Summit on 14-15 December in Phnom Penh and online.

As part of its action plan to boost tourism recovery in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), Destination Mekong, the private regional tourism board of the GMS, based in Cambodia and Singapore, will have the third edition of its Destination Mekong Summit on 14-15 December 2022.

As international travel has resumed in the GMS and globally, the 2022 Destination Mekong Summit will take place in Trellion and Aquation Parks on Koh Pich in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and online, under the theme ‘Together – Smarter – Stronger’.

Designed as a two-day journey celebrating creativity, diversity and inclusivity, the 2022 DMS will gather 40 speakers, and prominent representatives of the public and private sectors involved in the travel, tourism and hospitality in the Mekong region: operators and owners of tourism SMEs, social entrepreneurs, policy-makers, practitioners, influencers, change-makers, educators and learners, high-level officials, etc.

The program of the Summit features eight thematic panel sessions, three of them being led by supporting partners including:

  • World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) session on ‘Championing the GMS as a sustainable tourism destination’, a key partner of the 2022 DMS;
  • Child Protection in Travel and Tourism (ECPAT) International: session on ‘Practicing social responsibility and inclusiveness in tourism’;
  • Beyond Retail Business (BRB) session on ‘Catching the value of local culture, know-how and creativity’.

Other panel sessions will address a variety of subjects such as innovative capacity-building, sustainable food and beverage businesses and experiences, marketing and branding for SMEs, social enterprises and start-ups in tourism, and opportunities and threats for tourism recovery in the GMS.

On the morning of the second day, 15 December, the Destination Mekong Summit will offer its participants the opportunity to attend the following training sessions and workshops:

  • Training of Tour Guides as Wildlife Champions and Agents for Positive Changes by WWF,
  • Sustainable tourism recovery with child protection in focus by ECPAT International,
  • Storytelling techniques by the Centre for Communication and Information Literacy,
  • Developing a Tourism & Travel Brand in 2023 by Trove Tourism Development Advisors, and
  • Digital Marketing for Tourism Businesses by Destination Mekong
  • Presentation of the report on ‘Innovate to Compete – Cambodia’s Tourism Insights 2022’ by GIZ.

Three major networking events, including a cocktail reception on the first day and a business matchmaking breakfast and a garden party on the second day, will offer the audience another occasion to enjoy the ‘power of together’ while building promising bridges and exciting connections. 

The latest line-up of speakers and programs can be found here.

Hosted for the first time in a hybrid format, the Destination Mekong Summit intends to:

  • build a smart platform and network to stimulate sustainable tourism recovery across GMS​;
  • foster synergies and partnerships to position and market the GMS as an attractive, sustainable and inclusive tourism destination​;
  • To facilitate an innovative framework to share experiences, grassroots solutions, and inspiring stories to help the recovery and resilience of tourism recovery in the GMS​;
  • To showcase value-added, revenue-generating solutions, projects and programs designed by Destination Mekong and its members and partners.

Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong, highlighted that ‘This 2022 DMS comes at a perfect time when we still have the chance to take stock of the lessons learnt in the past few years, and restart, rethink, and rebalance tourism so that it can truly contribute to inclusive local development and empowerment in the region’. 

‘The travel and tourism industry has come in for much criticism in recent years, particularly in terms of its environmental impact, this summit allows us to convey the positive role the industry can play as well as the necessity to promote social and economic sustainability if we are to achieve our environmental sustainability goals’ stressed Mark Jackson, Chair of the Executive Board of Destination Mekong.

‘Responsible tourists are a key player in wildlife conservation and sustainable local livelihood development. Wildlife and local cultures are priceless assets for tourism activities which need to be protected and restored’ said Teak Seng, Country Director of WWF-Cambodia. ‘Cambodia is blessed with rich biodiversity on earth but the nature-based tourism in Cambodia hasn’t reached its full potential at this point due to the limited infrastructure, quality products and services,’ Mr Seng added.

‘Global travel and tourism are making a comeback, but it is important that we don’t revert to old behaviours,” said Jedsada Taweekan, head of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Illegal Wildlife Trade program. ‘The way forward must be green and sustainable, and consider the needs of wildlife and the environment in addition to the needs of travellers. Therefore, working with the travel and tourism sector to encourage tourists to have responsible tourism experiences – at the minimum by refraining from consuming wild animal meat or buying wildlife products as souvenirs – is a small but effective way to promote positive change in tourist behaviour.’

For Gabriela Kühn, Head of the Programme of Child Protection in Travel and Tourism – ECPAT International, ‘Practicing social responsibility and inclusiveness for tourism development can only happen through human rights approach. Actions to address adverse impacts on children’s rights need to be scaled up by governments and companies in cooperation with civil society organizations. The Destination Mekong Summit allows stimulating action of building together sustainable tourism destinations that protect children.’

Registration and details:  (the event is FREE for Destination Mekong Members, Partners and Speakers).


Destination Mekong publishes the first Mekong Stories book

14 September 2022, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

To 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
  • Hivester
  • 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
  • WildChina

The 243-page publication will be available to read and download on; the content will also be published on as well as on Destination Mekong’s Facebook page.


UNWTO and Netflix partner on screen tourism push

UNWTO and Netflix have partnered on the publication of a report which looks at the role of film and series as drivers for tourism and cultural affinity.

The Global Report on Cultural Affinity and Screen Tourism explores the growing affection one has towards a particular country or culture displayed on the screen.

The findings of the research were presented in Madrid at the Iberseries Platino Industria, the largest international event for professionals linked to the audiovisual industry in Spanish and Portuguese.

The report’s ultimate goal is to support policymakers and key stakeholders within the tourism sector to implement policies that make their destinations attractive for audio-visual producers.

It also aims to help in the building of strategies to promote tourism and consumption of local culture, investing in skills and training to develop the local film and creative sectors, as well as integrating tourism and showcasing culture at film festivals to deepen the global audiences’ knowledge.

UNWTO secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Both tourism and the audiovisual sectors celebrate and promote culture, support jobs and provide opportunities in diverse locations. The joint work of UNWTO and Netflix will help destinations realise the potential benefits of screen tourism.”

Dean Garfield, vice-president, public policy, Netflix, added: “As highlighted in this research, we have been able to demonstrate conclusively what we instinctively already believed, which is that alongside the desire to travel and visit destinations, exposure to screen content also leads to greater interest in heritage, culture, language, and developing interpersonal relationships.

“This truly demonstrates that the creative industries, cultural exchange, storytelling, and tourism are all interlinked and can transform the way communities perceive and connect with each other.”

Following the presentation of the Global Report, experts on tourism and the audio-visual industry shared their knowledge and insights into changing trends in screen tourism and its positive impacts on strengthening cultural affinity, as well as the role of online streaming services in promoting tourism and cultural affinity between people, cultures and countries in line with the 2030 Agenda.

Read the full article at TTG Asia:

SPTO – Destination Mekong Partnership to Enhance Tourism Recovery

Bangkok & Fiji, 10th October 2021

The Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO) and Destination Mekong have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to foster a collaborative partnership that will benefit both organizations and their stakeholders.

With their extensive membership of the greater Mekong sub- region (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam, as well as Southwestern Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guanxi) and 20 Pacific Island countries (PICs), spanning all four sub-regions, SPTO and Destination Mekong represent world-class tourism destinations that will benefit from information sharing and best- practice experiences under the MoU.

A key objective of the partnership is to accelerate sustainable and inclusive tourism growth post- pandemic, so as to ensure that tourism’s benefits are equitably distributed to all stakeholders whilst also enhancing sustainable tourism development practices in the destinations.

Speaking at the MoU announcement at the virtual Mekong World Tourism Day Forum, Destination Mekong founder and outgoing Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, Mr. Jens Thraenhart, noted the importance of innovative collaboration during this time.

“The MoU with SPTO signals an important step in a partnership agreement between two major regional tourism organizations, in a time when collaboration and sharing of knowledge is more important than ever, to practically assist our business communities prepare for a balanced tourism eco-system”, he said.

Similarly, SPTO Chief Executive, Mr. Christopher Cocker, emphasized the importance of building partnerships to effectively address common challenges.

“We are very excited to work with Destination Mekong to bring together our resources and experiences for the benefit of our respective member countries. We recognize that some Destination Mekong members are well established tourism destinations and will have valuable lessons to share with SPTO and our members”.

“Moreover, with diverse stakeholders and rapidly changing trends threats regional tourism is becoming more and more complex. Therefore, collaboration with like- minded partners is critical for regional tourism organisations, particularly against the backdrop of the pandemic. Innovation and collaboration will drive tourism’s recovery and ensure resilience in the long run”, said Mr. Cocker.

SPTO and Destination Mekong intend to host a virtual mini tourism forum towards the end of 2021, with details to be announced in due course.






Established in 1983 as the Tourism Council of the South Pacific, the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) is the mandated organisation representing Tourism in the region. Its 21 Government members are American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Rapa Nui, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu Wallis & Futuna and the People’s Republic of China. In addition to government members, the Pacific Tourism Organisation also enlists a private sector membership base. SPTO’s mission is to ensure sustainable tourism development through innovative partnerships. The vision of the organisation is, “Our Pacific Islands’ empowered and benefitting from sustainable tourism”.


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Destination Mekong:

Destination Mekong (DM) is the regional destination marketing organization and is owned and funded by the private sector of the travel and tourism industry in the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion. DM initiates, develops, and operates various programs and initiatives aligned to the strategic framework of the regional Mekong Tourism collaboration, published by the six-member tourism ministries via its secretariat, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.


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