Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office prepares for 2nd annual Experience Mekong Collection Showcase

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The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) is inviting the public to nominate their favourite Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) small businesses on www.experiencemekong.orgto determine next year’s 2019 Experience Mekong Collection Showcase. The nomination deadline is December 1, 2018.

Results gleaned from this year’s collection showcase revealed a strong rooting interest from the public as nearly 80 small-business nominations were collected in total. During the earlier held Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, the MTCO cordially announced its inaugural showcase selections (one per GMS country) for model demonstration in experiential tourism-friendly practices that are sustainable, responsible, and innovative.

“The importance of responsible tourism cannot be underestimated and the ‘Experience Mekong Collection’ is a wonderful way of highlighting examples of good practice,” said MTCO executive director Jens Thraenhart.

“In doing so, this sets several benchmarks to further improve travel experiences in the Greater Mekong Subregion. We hope this motivates other operators to become more involved and do their part for responsible tourism,” he said.

The first-ever showcase featured small businesses committed to sustainable and responsible practices with each of them also being categorized by either ‘DO’, ‘SHOP’, ‘STAY’, ‘TOUR/CRUISE’ or ‘TASTE’.

The 2018 Experience Mekong Collection Showcase selectees stand as follows:

Cambodia: Phare, the Cambodian Circus (Do category) showcases a theatre-style attraction for guests and tourists. The circus illustrates Cambodian folklore through interpretive dance, mix-theatre performances and music. The hour-long show puts a focus on history, touching on themes strong in Cambodian tradition.

As a natural oasis, China: Longji Rice Terraces Guangxi (Do category) also called the Dragon Backbone’s Rice Terraces, this natural mountainous staircase began construction in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and continued until completion during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Lao PDR: Ock Pop Tok (Shop category) was showcased as a socially and environmentally conscious retail destination for textile lovers. Founded in 2000, Ock Pop Tok was established on principles of fair trade and sustainable business practices.

Myanmar: Inle Heritage Place (Stay category) is a not-for-profit organization that aims to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of the Inle Lake in Myanmar. The hotel is aligned to the training school, educating young local residents from the surrounding villages.

Thailand: Local Alike (Tour category) was recognized for its online practice that helps users find curated travel tours in local communities across Southeast Asia. Local Alike works with locals in many different communities to build authentic travel packages.

Lastly, Viet Nam: Koto (Taste category) is a restaurant doubled as a social enterprise and as a result. Located in Ha Noi, this Vietnamese restaurant has empowered hundreds of disadvantaged youth by offering culinary training completely free of charge. Over its history, Koto has trained over 670 students and currently have more than 200 enrolled.

In addition to being honoured at this year’s MTF, representatives of the showcase selectees had a chance to speak to delegates about the positive impact their experience has impressed on not only tourists but also on local residents as well – a big component of the Experience Mekong Collection initiative.

The 2018 showcase attractions were each examined in great detail in regard to its practices, tangible impact on the environment and social climate, and its financial viability. Case studies on each of the 2018 experiences were developed by students of the Mahidol University International College in Thailand. Summarised and well-designed snippets of these case study reports were presented at MTF 2018 and more recently at ITB Asia 2018 in Singapore.

The reports will be published as Mekong Trends white-papers, aligned with the upcoming Mekong Trends Snapshot on ‘Sustainable Tourism’.

All members of the Experience Mekong Collection are highlighted on a feature page within in addition to being recognized by a certified badge reflecting its responsible and sustainable practice. Other benefits for members include a free booth at next year’s MTF and discounted rates on sales and marketing services from industry partner Oriental Hospitality Solutions.

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