For the Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) event, travel and tourism innovators from the Mekong region took centre stage on 9 October in Bangkok to showcase sustainable tourism technologies and social enterprises.
Bangkok, Thailand – The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office announced the winners among the 10 innovative startups from across the Mekong Region, which competed in the Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) competition on 9 October 2019.
This year, MIST was held in Bangkok together with the new Travel Startups Asia Forum, featuring startup stories from successful travel ventures and MIST Alumni. The opening keynote was given by Senator and former Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand HE Mr Weerasak Kowsurat who linked the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to tourism development in Thailand and the Mekong Region. The closing keynote was given by founder of Nok Airways Mr Patee Sarasin, who gave valuable insights from his experiences in starting an airline in Southeast Asia.
The two winners of MIST 2019 are Golf Digg from Thailand in the Travel Technology category and Noir from Viet Nam in the Social Impact category.
Golf Digg is an online platform for booking golf courses, and Noir is a spa and massage facility staffed by visually impaired people.
The Laotian ride-hailing service Loca won the special runner-up prize in the Travel Technology category. Both winners of the Travel Technology category received the honor to present at ITB-Asia on Friday 18 October in Singapore. Laos Buffalo Dairy won the special runner-up prize in the Social Impact category and the honor of presenting at the 2020 Mekong Tourism Forum in Bagan next May.
The judging panel included senior executives from the Travel and Tourism as well as Travel Technology industry including the CEO of PATA, CEO of Exo Travel, Chairman of Khiri Travel, VP of Minor Group, as well as executives from Dusit International, Amadeus, 500 Startups, Techsauce, the Mekong Business Council, Sasin School of Business, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Xpedite Capital Partners, the Thailand Digital Startup Institute, Lykke Studios, Go Real Asia, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Now in its third year with hundreds of alumni, MIST was jointly managed by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and Mekong Business Initiative (MBI). MBI and MIST were supported by the Australian Government and Asian Development Bank.
This year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Pacific Asia Travel Association were also partnering to support the program. MIST 2019 and the Travel Startups Asia Forum was organized by UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies.
MIST was set up to help integrate Greater Mekong Subregion travel startups into the global travel and tourism ecosystem, promote innovation, and help local firms thrive in the globally competitive tourism industry. Dominic Mellor, head of MBI and ADB Ventures said: “As one of the first travel startup programs created by a tourism board, MIST has attracted nearly 500 applications and generated millions of social shares in the first three years. It has elevated the status and prestige of tourism entrepreneurship across the region.”
Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office added: “Recognizing both travel tech ventures and social impact enterprises, MIST is well-positioned to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, encourage inclusive and responsible tourism development, and promote gender equity in the Mekong Region.”
MIST was the first travel startup program to recognize and create a separate category for social impact enterprises, connecting it to the globally unique Experience Mekong Collection which already has curated nearly 350 small responsible travel businesses in the Mekong Region.
On 8 October MIST finalists were invited to the Pacific Asia Travel Association headquarters to network with tourism industry leaders, potential investors, and mentors. On 9 October, the MIST 2019 final pitch competition was held at the creative space Quaint Brasserie Bangkok as part of the Travel Startups Asia Forum.
Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.