Destination Mekong aligns with other tourism leaders to sign the Glasgow Declaration on climate action in tourism

18 November 2021, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Destination Mekong became a proud signatory of the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism at the COP26.

As part of its efforts to play a leadership role in the global tourism community, Destination Mekong became a signatory and launch partner of the Glasgow Declaration on climate Action in Tourism, which was launched on 4 November 2021 during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

Founded in 2017, Destination Mekong (DM) is the regional tourism organization dedicated to championing the Mekong region, comprising Cambodia, PR China (Provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, as a sustainable and inclusive tourism destination.  

The Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism unites travel and tourism behind a common set of pathways for climate action, aligning the sector with global commitments and catalyzing collaborative solutions to the many challenges facing businesses and destinations globally.

The Glasgow Declaration encourages the acceleration of climate action in tourism by securing commitments to reduce emissions in tourism by at least 50% over the next decade and achieve Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050.

As a signatory of the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, Destination Mekong has committed to aligning its actions with the latest scientific recommendations to ensure its approach remains consistent with a rise of no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. It also has agreed to deliver or update climate action plans within 12 months, align programs with the five pathways of the Declaration (Measure, Decarbonise, Regenerate, Collaborate, Finance), report publicly on an annual basis, and work in a collaborative spirit, sharing good practices and solutions, and disseminating information.

 “More than ever, the global tourism industry has a unique opportunity to demonstrate its transformative power through inspiring and driving climate action. It’s not only an emergency but also a matter of human dignity.” Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, CEO, Destination Mekong

The Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism brings together the latest research and global expertise to galvanize climate action. It will be hosted within the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme’s website, supported by Recommended Actions for tourism stakeholders across the world to consider as part of their action planning, alongside other resources. As the declaration states: “A just transition to Net Zero before 2050 will only be possible if tourism’s recovery accelerates the adoption of sustainable consumption and production, and redefines our future success to consider not only economic value but rather the regeneration of ecosystems, biodiversity, and communities.”

The need for a globally consistent approach for climate action in tourism has been made clear, notably through research into CO2 emissions carried out by UNWTO/ITF and released at the UNFCCC COP25 in December 2019. This showed that transport-related emissions from tourism were forecast to increase by 25% by 2030 from 2016 levels, against the current ambition scenario.

As the global tourism industry is slowly getting back on track, Destination Mekong (DM) has recently appointed a new Executive Team composed of Catherine Germier-Hamel as CEO, Gerrit Kruger as Chief Marketing Officer, Gavin Bell as Chief Development Officer, and Jens Uwe Parkitny as a strategic advisor, in an honorary capacity, effective 1 November.

This ‘dream team’ was formed by Jens Thraenhart, Founder of Destination Mekong and former Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), before starting a new career as CEO of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.

The MIST program evolves from “Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism” to “Mekong Innovations in Sustainable Tourism”.

MIST program aims to expedite tourism industry growth, create an ecosystem that inspires innovation, and promote sustainability in tourism

Bangkok December 20, 2020:  The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) ( as the secretariat of the Tourism Working Group of the six national tourism organizations of the Greater Mekong Subregion, and Destination Mekong (, the public-private collaboration framework of the Lancang-Mekong Region, in consultation with the six member governments of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and its partner the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has decided to evolve the 4-year old trail-blazing initiative. Originally limited to only startups in the two categories of travel tech and travel social enterprises, the evolved MIST program will focus on innovations in sustainable tourism, resilience, and climate change in the Greater Mekong Subregion, aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nominations are open to any business entity, from startups to established corporates, from NGOs to governments, and from individuals to partnerships, coming from the six member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion, as well as from all over the world if the initiative can be applied to driving sustainability and resilience in the Mekong Region.

For this new chapter of MIST, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office has decided to bring onboard the Swiss-based Ecosystem builder Seedstars. According to Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, and Chair of Destination Mekong: “This is an important and significant step forward to continue to innovate our initiatives to stay relevant to the changing needs of the tourism industry, during and post the current COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping our powerful MIST brand, the focus will be on innovative and creative projects and concepts driving sustainability and resilience to recover travel and tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion.”

In the first quarter of 2021, MIST will invite nominations from startups, established companies, government organizations, NGOs, academia, media, as well as individuals, students, and partnerships. For an entry to be accepted it needs to be an operating initiative or project that drives sustainable tourism and resilience. The MIST jury, made up of members of the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG – and Seedstars, will judge the final pitches during a hybrid MIST Forum planned for the second half of 2021 in Bangkok.  Nominations are being accepted starting February 1, 202 until April 31, 2021 at (, and existing MIST nominations are being considered based on the new criteria.  The MIST program celebrates creative ideas and innovation, featuring qualified initiatives on the Mekong Innovations Showcase (, encouraging partnerships and investments.  

Now in its 4th year, the MIST program has been one of the first tourism board globally pioneering its own travel startup program, integrating innovation and entrepreneurship with the travel and tourism ecosystem. Destination Mekong and the Mekong Business Initiative – with the backing of the Government of Australia, the Asian Development Bank, and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office – launched MIST in 2016 to propel innovation in the rapidly growing tourism markets of the Greater Mekong Subregion. MIST aims to expedite tourism industry growth, create an ecosystem that inspires innovation, and promote sustainability in tourism.  The MIST program is guided by an international advisory board made up of travel executives and investors in the travel and tourism industry.

In 2017 and 2018, the final pitching competitions were integrated into the Mekong Tourism Forums in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR and Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, respectively.  In 2019, Destination Mekong partnered with the Travel Startups Asia Forum in Bangkok, to host the final MIST pitching competition, and inspired delegates with panels and keynotes including from former Minister of Sports and Tourism if Thailand, HE Mr Weerasak Kowsurat and Nok Air Founder Mr. Patee Sarasin. The successful MIST Mentorships Bootcamp was hosted at the offices of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in Bangkok, conducting workshops by investors, travel executives, and MIST alumni for MIST 2019 finalists. Winners of the travel technology category were invited to present at the MIST Forum at ITB Asia in Singapore.

MIST 2019 Group Photo at Travel Startup Asia Forum in Bangkok, October 9th, 201

First Mekong Hero announced at Destination Mekong Summit

Founder of Thailand Community-based Tourism Institute honored

Bangkok, July 7, 2020:  The  ‘Mekong Heroes’ is a new program, initiated by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) and Destination Mekong, to celebrate colleagues in Mekong tourism who work tirelessly behind the scenes to “inspire and influence the direction of our industry, modeling new ways of conceiving and doing tourism better.”  Two Mekong Heroes will be selected per year, who will join the Mekong Heroes Gallery. We will tell their personal stories to inspire others. Nominations are always open at:, and the next Mekong Hero will be announced on February 25th at the Mekong Tourism Forum in Bagan, Myanmar.

According to Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO): “Achieving a prosperous and sustainable tourism industry is not possible without committed leaders, with special kinds of vision and determination. The Mekong Heroes program is important so the whole industry benefits from their authenticity of vision, purpose, commitment, and determination; maintained over years of hard work. Recognized not only as builders, creators, and innovators, but also as mentors, teachers, and motivators, these individuals have made it their mission to bring out the best in people.”

The first Mekong Hero was announced during the Virtual Destination Mekong Summit on August 25th.

Selected among dozens of nominations and endorsed by chair of the Mekong Heroes Selection Committee HE Mr. Htay Aung, former Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar, Ms. Potjana Suansri has been selected as the first Mekong Hero. She gave a brief speech via video conferencing, which can be viewed at:

Ms. Potjana Suansri is the founder of the Thailand Community-Based Tourism Institute (CBT-I), and currently is serving as cultural tourism capacity building expert for the UN International Trade Center (ITC) Myanmar Inclusive Tourism project.

Khun Potjana, known affectionately as ‘P Noi’ is one of the true pioneers of community based tourism (CBT) in Asia. For over thirty years, Potjana has worked tirelessly alongside community members and other tourism stakeholders, learning how to put greater local community participation and benefits from tourism into practice.

Potjana’s work, as a thought leader and practical field worker started decades before ‘community-based tourism’ and ‘local experiences’ gained mainstream support as a market trend, tourism product and development strategy.

Potjana started her career as a social worker for Plan International, working with urban migrants being evicted from Bangkok’s slums. These experiences convinced her that rural Thais would benefit from better livelihoods opportunities in the countryside; motivating her to find alternatives to migrating to the city for work.

In 1991, at Thailand Volunteer Service (TVS), Potjana started organising rural study tours as a strategy to bring the struggles and successes of rural Thai communities to the attention of Thailand’s urban classes. Potjana supervised recent Thai graduates to work alongside community members as volunteers.

In 1994, based on the positive results which these study tours had brought to the communities, Potjana and her colleagues founded the Responsible, Ecological, Social Tours Project (REST) under TVS. In 2001, ‘REST’ became an independent organisation. REST’s work began to influence national tourism debate, proving that local communities could be actors in tourism development, and tourism could be a development tool. In 2003, Potjana wrote the acclaimed REST CBT Handbook (2003), which was used as a blueprint by rural tourism practitioners around Asia and further afield. REST was co-organiser of the 2002 International Year of Ecotourism Regional Conference in SE Asia and received a World Legacy Award in 2003 from Conservation International and National Geographic Traveler.

In 2006, Potjana directed and developed the Thailand Community-Based Tourism Institute (CBT-I) from an innovative action research project into a legally registered, internationally respected knowledge hub for Community-Based Tourism. CBT-I coordinated the Thai CBT movement, working with civil society to successfully lobby the Thai government to formalize local community participation in, and benefits from, rural tourism at policy level; and engaging tour operators and tourism associations to understand, support and sell CBT.

Since 2014, Potjana has been busy sharing her experience with neighbours in the GMS, as an expert on Capacity Building and Product Development for the ground-breaking United Nations International Trade Center (ITC), NTF Myanmar Inclusive Tourism Project, in Kayah State and Dawei District, Tanintharyi Region, Myanmar.

According to the former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and regional champion of sustainable tourism, Mr. Pradech Phayakvichien:

“Potjana is a modest, generous person, who is happy to work hard in the background, away from the spotlight. However, the influence of her work and ideas on government, private sector, academic and NGO programs, catalyzing and demonstrating how to drive local benefits into responsible tourism is massive.”

Ms. May Myat Mon Win, Chairperson of the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Association voiced her appreciation of Potjana’s role sharing lessons learned with Myanmar:

“Step by step, Potjana’s work has built the skills, confidence and opportunities of local community members in Thailand, Myanmar, and across the Greater Mekong Subregion to influence and benefit more from local tourism development. Without her contribution, there is no doubt that our region would have far less knowledge about how to do ‘great local experiences with real local benefits’ well. Potjana is truly fitting for recognition and appreciation as the first Mekong Hero.”

To learn more about Potjana’s work, read the in-depth interview at Sustainability Leaders:



About the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office:

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

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About Destination Mekong:

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

More information at:

The tourism value chain

Sustainable and responsible tourism can be used as a versatile instrument for sustainable development in international development cooperation. The approach presented in this hand book is based on the proactive design and management of tourism value chains in partner destinations.

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