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.


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.