Hoi An, Viet Nam, October 18, 2022 / TRAVELINDEX / After two years of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mekong Tourism Forum returned as a physical event in 2022. It was be held in Quang Nam Province, home to Hoi An ancient town in central Viet Nam, on 12 October 2022.
Under the theme “Rebuild Tourism, Rebound with Resilience,” it was be the first interactive in-person event convening public- and private-sector tourism leaders and experts from the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and beyond since the pandemic began. This GMS signature forum focused on targeted regional efforts and cross-sectoral collaboration to foster real action toward rebuilding a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable tourism industry.
The Mekong Tourism Forum 2022 took place at the Hoiana Resort and Golf (Hoiana), Quang Nam Province, Viet Nam, under the theme “Rebuild Tourism, Rebound with Resilience”. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam hosted the event in collaboration with the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) and support of the Asian Development Bank. The Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) was preceded by the 50th Meeting of the Greater Mekong Subregion Tourism Working Group and the MTCO Board Meeting.
The annual MTF aims to raise the profile of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) as a unified tourist destination, provide an industry-wide platform for the public and private sectors to address sub-regional tourism issues, and expand marketing networks and opportunities for promoting the GMS while pooling collective resources to create intra- industry synergies.
The MTF 2022 was the region’s first in-person, government-led event since the pandemic began, marking a significant milestone in the recovery of tourism within GMS member countries. The interactive event served as a platform for tourism stakeholders and development partners to reconnect in person, exchange tourism recovery communications knowledge and experiences, and gather new GMS travel insights from industry experts.
In light of the gradual international tourism recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the MTF 2022 focused on the theme “Rebuild Tourism, Rebound with Resilience”. The event brought together regional tourism leaders to rethink the rebuilding of GMS tourism by adopting resilience-based approaches and effectively leveraging technology to create a more sustainable and inclusive sector.
H.E. Mr. Nguyen Trung Khanh, Chairman of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam, gave an opening remark that urged public and private stakeholders to rethink and reshape the tourism industry towards a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient future. Despite the positive trends underway in tourism recovery, the challenging economic environment created by high oil prices, inflation, and international supply chain disruptions has resulted in higher transport and accommodation costs for the tourism sector. This adds pressure to tourism businesses and traveler purchasing power, which could delay the sub-regional tourism recovery. H.E Nguyen Trung Khanh further encouraged tourism stakeholders of all sizes to leverage digital tools to support the resilience and sustainability of the sector and to boost the tourism industry’s capacity through reskilling and upskilling programs.
H.E Nguyen Trung Khanh commended the strong commitments of GMS NTOs to reinforce subregional efforts to foster cross-sectoral collaboration; strengthen engagement and support for micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs); and promote equal opportunities for local employment. His Excellency further emphasized the importance of capacity-building and knowledge-sharing programs to enhance the skills of tourism professionals, particularly in developing green, sustainable growth.
H.E Nguyen Trung Khanh recognized a series of initiatives carried out by the MTCO under the GMS Tourism Recovery Communication Plan. In addition to updating the MTCO website, these include the development of the monthly Mekong Tourism newsletter, the GMS Tourism Recovery Communication Toolkit and online seminar, and the #MekongPostcard campaign, which involved active participation from tourism stakeholders, influencers, and residents in the region. His Excellency also acknowledged the support provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
H.E. Tran Van Tan, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Quang Nam Province, delivered a welcome address and expressed his warmest gratitude to all delegates attending the MTF 2022, which was the first physical regional tourism event held in Quang Nam since 2020. This was a golden chance for Quang Nam to present its image as a destination and strengthen tourism linkages with GMS member countries and beyond. Mr. Tran Van Tan affirmed that Quang Nam is intensifying efforts to help the tourism sector recover due to its economic importance, as well as its social and environmental values. Quang Nam is also the host of the year’s biggest national tourism event, “Visit Vietnam Year 2022,” under the theme “A green tourism destination.” The province is committed to the sustainable growth of the tourism sector by leveraging technology to reduce negative impacts while promoting protection of the natural environment. Mr. Tran Van Tan further encouraged delegates to experience Quang Nam’s treasures, including the Hoi An Ancient Town, My Son Sanctuary, Cu Lao Cham World Biosphere Reserve, delicious local cuisine, spectacular beaches, and charming villages.
The keynote on “The Future of Tourism – Rethink Travel, Rethink Destination Marketing and Management” was given by Ms. Liz Ortiguera, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). Ms. Ortiguera discussed the evolution of mega trends and their impact on travel dynamics in Asia and the Pacific, especially within the GMS, and how tourism stakeholders should adapt.
ADB’s Senior Sustainable Tourism Specialist, Mr. Wouterus Schalken, shared his perspective on “Sustainably Reviving Tourism – Mekong Reflections.” He highlighted the concerted policies, regulations, and investments needed to ensure tourism resilience and sustainability, emphasizing quality infrastructure, nature-based solutions, and industry-wide adoption of environmentally friendly operational practices and diversification.
The MTF 2022 featured three expert-led panel discussions. The first panel session on “Social Enterprises: A Purposeful and Powerful Tool for Sustainable Tourism Recovery, Development and Promotion” explored how social enterprises offer a promising business model for inclusive growth, environmental sustainability, and positive branding of destinations. The panelists discussed knowledge, skills, and resources required to enhance visibility, legitimacy, and legal frameworks to boost the competitiveness and leverage the power of social enterprises toward sustainable tourism recovery in the GMS.
The second panel, “New Ways of Connecting Sustainable Tourism Suppliers and Buyers,” examined new strategies to connect sustainable tourism suppliers and buyers with markets, financing, and nature. The panelists discussed financing instruments, partnership structures, and incentivizing mechanisms for both tourism suppliers and buyers to collaborate with each other, investors, and development partners for a resilient and sustainable future.
The final panel covered “Technology: Unlocking Green Tourism Opportunities,” in which the panelists shared best practices on leveraging digital tools to maximize the positive impacts of tourism on the environment and local communities. The panel discussion highlighted the challenges, solutions, and opportunities for tourism SMEs and MSMEs to better adopt technology and integrate into the booming digital economy.
Overall, the Mekong Tourism Forum 2022 concluded with success. Viet Nam wished to express sincere gratitude to GMS NTOs, MTCO, participants, and speakers, including representatives from PATA, ADB, Agoda, ASEANTA, Destination Mekong, Yaana Ventures, OAG, Exo Travel, JNE Group, Song Saa Collective, CBT Travel, Planeterra, Social Enterprise Thailand Association, Green Discovery Laos, Seeva Capital, Travelife, Clickable Impact, etc. More than 250 delegates participated in the MTF 2022, including both international and local participants.
The Kingdom of Cambodia will host the next MTF from 16-20 March 2023 in Preah Sihanouk province under the theme “Rethink for Resiliency and Digitalization” as we are embarking into a new age of traveling and living in the context of the new normal era of the post COVID-19 global pandemic, which are the dynamic region full of excitement, experience, resilience, and most importantly healthy safety measures to all passionate travelers. 2023 is Visit Cambodia Year in which we will also be the host of the 32nd SEA Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games in the spirit of “Sports Live In Peace”. Looking forward to welcome you all to Cambodia – Kingdom of Wonder- Feel the warmth (safe, clean and green).
About Mekong Tourism Forum
First held in 1996, the Mekong Tourism Forum is an annual government-led event dedicated to the tourism industry in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). The event provides a cooperative platform for travel and tourism stakeholders to discuss regional tourism development, along with the marketing and promotion of travel to, from, and within the GMS. It presents an inclusive, interactive, and results-oriented opportunity to encourage public- and private-sector participation in promoting the GMS as a single destination.
Mekong Tourism Forum aims to:
– Raise the profile of the Greater Mekong Subregion as a single tourist destination,
– Provide an industry-wide platform for the public and private sectors to address sub-regional tourism issues,
– Expand marketing networks and opportunities for promoting the GMS and pool collective resources to create intra-industry synergies.
The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) organized the first Mekong Tourism Forum in 1996 and led it for 10 consecutive years. In subsequent years, the private sector initiated similar events that shared the Forum’s vision and objectives. The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) revived the Forum in 2010 in Siem Reap, Cambodia with the theme of “New Roads, New Opportunities.” Since then, the GMS member countries have co-hosted this influential event with the MTCO annually on a rotating basis. Each event is designed to focus on a unique theme that addresses critical subregional tourism issues and sets future strategic directions.