Bangkok, Thailand, February 21, 2021 / TRAVELINDEX / Created four years ago in September 2017 to both recognize and encourage sustainable and responsible tourism development, 72 Experience Mekong Collection (EMC) member businesses have been shortlisted – ten from each of the six GMS member countries plus the two finalists from last year that did not win – to determine the final six businesses to be recognized for the third annual Experience Mekong Showcases via public voting, announced at the 2nd Virtual Destination Mekong Summit in May 2021. The “Experience Mekong Collection” curates small, responsible, and sustainable travel businesses in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), endorsed by members of the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group and is a collection of inspirational, rewarding, and authentic experiences that minimize negative impacts and generate greater benefits for the people of the GMS and enhance the well-being of host communities. This year’s shortlisted businesses were each examined in great detail regarding their practices, tangible impact on the environment and social climate, innovation, and financial viability.
Each business needs to fulfill the following requirements:
- Make a significant social impact on its community
- Provide an authentically local experience positioning the GMS as a responsible, inclusive, and experiential tourism destination.
- Have an innovative concept and sustainable business model.
“The importance of responsible tourism cannot be underestimated and the ‘Experience Mekong Collection’ is a wonderful way of highlighting examples of good practice. Social enterprises have the potential to drive sustainable tourism and to promote the Mekong Region as an experiential and responsible travel destination. We aim to tell their stories to inspire travelers to experience these “stars of the Mekong,” said Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO).
In January 2020, at the FITUR travel trade show in Madrid, Spain, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) featured the Experience Mekong Collection as a global best practice on tourism aligned to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Experience Mekong Collection program is aligned to our Mekong Heroes program, part of our Mekong Responsible Travel mandate. During these challenging times, to support our small responsible travel businesses and protect the fragile tourism ecosystem of the Greater Mekong Subregion, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, together with Destination Mekong, last year launched the “Support Experience Mekong Collection Businesses”.
During this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are afraid that many small businesses are struggling, and some may not survive. What makes travel in the Greater Mekong Subregion so unique and authentic are these small local enterprises and responsible operators. For some of these experiences to go away is like taking a part of the Mekong Region away. The Experience Mekong Collection not only creates a strong community for these small businesses to get through this difficult time, but also provides a powerful platform to accelerate the recovery process”, said Ms. Duangmala Phommavong, Managing Director of Exo Travel Laos, and a member of the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG).
By choosing one organization from each Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) country, the MTCO, along with the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG) endorses and selects “best practice” tourism organizations specifically committed to sustainable and responsible practices. As previously structured, each showcase organization is thematically categorized by either ‘DO’, ‘SHOP’, ‘STAY’, ‘TASTE’, ‘TOUR’, and ‘CRUISE’.
This year for the second time, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) is inviting the public to vote for their favorite Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) small businesses out of the 72 shortlisted members of the 350+ Experience Mekong Collection members to determine the 2021 Experience Mekong Showcases. Public voting is open until March 31, 2021. The top 3 businesses with the most votes from each country will move into the final, when the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG), the GMS Tourism Working Group (TWG), and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) help in selecting the six 2021 Experience Mekong Showcases – one from each GMS member country.
“In recognizing the most innovative best practice businesses as the Experience Mekong Showcases, 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,” said HE Mr. Htay Aung, former Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar, and a member of the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG).
The 2018 Experience Mekong Collection Showcases included Phare Cambodian Circus (Cambodia), Longji Rice Terraces Guangxi (PR China), Ock Pop Tok (Lao PDR), Inle Heritage Place (Myanmar), Local Alike (Thailand), and Koto (Viet Nam). The 2019 Experience Mekong Collection included Soksabike (Cambodia), Linden Centre (PR China), Elephant Conservation Centre (Lao PDR), Hla Day (Myanmar), Sampran Riverside (Thailand), and Streets International (Viet Nam). The 2020 Experience Mekong Showcases included Elephant Valley Project (Cambodia), Yangshuo Mountain Retreat (PR China), Laos Buffalo Dairy (Lao PDR), Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project (Myanmar), Family Tree (Thailand), La Hoa – Flowers Speak (Viet Nam).
All members of the Experience Mekong Collection get exposure via channels of Mekong Tourism, as well as the dedicated Experience Mekong Collection Facebook and Instagram accounts. Experience Mekong Collection members also have priority access to marketing campaigns and have their own dedicated online member-only community to connect with each other. Via a partnership with Mahidol University in Thailand, we bring these innovative best practices into the classroom to educate future leaders about the importance of responsible tourism and create case studies of the Experience Mekong Showcases to inspire the industry and other businesses.
Shortlisted Experience Mekong Collection Members
|Do||Bambu Stage||Siem Reap||Cambodia|
|Do||Phare Ponleu Selpak||Battambang||Cambodia|
|Shop||Genevieve’s Fair Trade Village||Siem Reap||Cambodia|
|Shop||Coco Khmer||Phnom Penh||Cambodia|
|Stay||Farmhouse Smiling Gecko||Kampong Chhnang||Cambodia|
|Stay||Mulberry Boutique Hotel||Siem Reap||Cambodia|
|Taste||Sala Baï||Siem Reap||Cambodia|
|Taste||The Lonely Tree Café||Battambang||Cambodia|
|Tour / Cruise||Wildlife Alliance Release Station||Koh Kong||Cambodia|
|Tour / Cruise||Artisans Angkor||Siem Reap||Cambodia|
|Do||Cambodia Living Arts||Phnom Penh||Cambodia||2020 Finalist|
|Tour / Cruise||Ayana Journeys||Siem Reap||Cambodia||2020 Finalist|
|Do||Lanxu Eco-Culture Development Center||Dali, Yunnan||China||2020 Shortlist|
|Do||Yunnan Mountain Heritage Foundation||Shangri La, Yunnan||China||2020 Shortlist|
|Do||Leye-Fengshan Geopark||Guangxi||China||2020 Shortlist|
|Stay||The Wenhai Ecolodge||Dali, Yunnan||China||2020 Shortlist|
|Stay||Horsepen 46||Dali, Yunnan||China||2020 Shortlist|
|Stay||Vinetree Gaoligong Tented Resort||Gaoligong, Yunnan||China|
|Stay||Yangshuo Village Inn||Yangshou, Guangxi||China|
|Taste||Pear Blossom Organic||Dali, Yunnan||China|
|Taste||Nixi Black Pottery Coffee||Shangri La, Yunnan||China||2020 Shortlist|
|Tour / Cruise||Xintou Ecotourism||Lijiang, Yunnan||China||2020 Shortlist|
|Stay||Shaxi Old Theatre Inn||Dali, Yunnan||China||2020 Finalist|
|Stay||The Bivou||Lijiang, Yunnan||China||2020 Finalist|
|Do||TAEC||Luang Prabang||Lao PDR||2020 Shortlist|
|Do||Nahm Dong Park||Luang Prabang||Lao PDR|
|Do||Heuan Chan Heritage House||Luang Prabang||Lao PDR|
|Shop||Passa Paa||Luang Prabang||Lao PDR|
|Shop||Saoban Crafts||Vientiane||Lao PDR|
|Stay||Sinouk Coffee Resort||Champasak||Lao PDR|
|Stay||Namkhan Ecolodge||Luang Prabang||Lao PDR|
|Stay||Kingfisher Ecolodge||Champasak||Lao PDR||2020 Shortlist|
|Taste||Saffron Coffee||Luang Prabang||Lao PDR|
|Taste||Tamarind Café||Luang Prabang||Lao PDR|
|Tour / Cruise||The Vat Phou Mekong Cruise||Pakse||Lao PDR||2020 Finalist|
|Do||Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park Wildlife Tours||Nam Et||Lao PDR||2020 Finalist|
|Do||The Inle Horse Club||Shan State||Myanmar||2020 Shortlist|
|Do||Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp||Shan State||Myanmar|
|Shop||Aidii Collections||Chin State||Myanmar||2020 Shortlist|
|Stay||Arakan Nature Lodge||Rakhine State||Myanmar|
|Stay||Lalay Lodge||Ngapali Beach||Myanmar|
|Taste||Veranda Youth Community Cafe||Hpa An||Myanmar|
|Tour / Cruise||Myanmar Adventure Outfitters||Lashio||Myanmar|
|Tour / Cruise||Uncharted Horizons||Yangon||Myanmar|
|Taste||Sanon Restaurant||Bagan||Myanmar||2020 Finalist|
|Tour / Cruise||Sampan Travel||Yangon||Myanmar||2020 Finalist|
|Do||Elephant Poopoopaper Park||Chiang Mai||Thailand|
|Shop||Thai Tribal Craft||Chiang Mai||Thailand|
|Stay||Phu Chai Sai Mountain Resort||Chiang Rai||Thailand|
|Stay||The Tongsai Bay||Koh Samui||Thailand|
|Taste||Better Moon Café||Bangkok||Thailand|
|Taste||Theera Bake Room||Bangkok||Thailand|
|Taste||The Passport Restaurant||Tak||Thailand|
|Tour / Cruise||SiamRise Travel||Bangkok||Thailand|
|Tour / Cruise||Bangkok Vanguards||Bangkok||Thailand|
|Do||Anurak Lodge||Surat Thani||Thailand||2020 Finalist|
|Do||Andaman Discoveries||Pang Nga||Thailand||2020 Finalist|
|Do||Omamori Spa||Ha Noi||Viet Nam|
|Do||Zó Project||Ha Noi||Viet Nam|
|Shop||Mekong Quilts||Ho Chi Minh City||Viet Nam|
|Shop||Craft Link||Ha Noi||Viet Nam|
|Shop||Indigo Cat||Sapa||Viet Nam|
|Stay||Mekong Rustic||Can Tho||Viet Nam|
|Stay||Ngoc Son Ngo Luong Nature Reserve||Hoa Binh||Viet Nam|
|Stay||Phong Nha Farmstay||Quang Binh||Viet Nam|
|Taste||Oriberry||Ha Noi||Viet Nam|
|Tour / Cruise||Sapa Sisters Trekking||Sapa||Viet Nam||2020 Shortlist|
|Shop||Tohe||Ha Noi||Viet Nam||2020 Finalist|
|Stay||Mr. Linh’s Homestay||Bac Kan||Viet Nam||2020 Finalist|
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 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.
About Destination Mekong:
Destination Mekong was created in 2017 to promote the 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 Mini Movie Festival, Mekong Innovations in Sustainable 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.