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

STEPS IMPACT REPORT 2022

Impact-report-22-English-version_Page_01

SDG 4: Quality Education

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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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 www.destinationmekong.com/dms22. Recordings of the sessions will be made available under the same link shortly.

—ENDS

THE 2022 DMS ON 14-15 DECEMBER PROMOTES VALUE-ADDED PARTNERSHIPS FOR SUSTAINABLE TOURISM RECOVERY IN THE MEKONG REGION

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: www.destinationmekong.com/dms22  (the event is FREE for Destination Mekong Members, Partners and Speakers).

-ENDS

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 www.destinationmekong.com; the content will also be published on www.mekongstories.com as well as on Destination Mekong’s Facebook page.

-ENDS

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