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5. Explore Mekong – CSR and positive contribution to local communities

Responsible social tourism

Turbulences and wars plagued the Greater Mekong Region for many decades but the situation stabilized over the last 20 years, Myanmar being the last of all GMS members to back a more opened society and greater economic freedom. Nonetheless to say, GMS countries’ economies are developing rapidly catching up with years of economic misery. However, not all the populations in the Greater Mekong Sub-region are benefiting of economic progress. A lot still needs to be done and tourism is one of the contributors to alleviate poverty on a large scale with the benefit of reaching geographically isolated and impoverished communities as well as minorities.

Of course, tourism development is far of being idyllic. Some places in the GMS have already become mass tourism destinations, some natural areas have been destroyed for the sake of tourism; the very assets that attract visitors – welcoming exotic people and customs, fine sand beaches, rich ecosystems, stunning landscapes, cultural heritage – can be under threat.  Bad tourism practices can easily destroy an area concluding generally by the exodus of tourists to another location. Responsible tourism strives to rebalance travel activities in a more sensitive manner.

Responsible Tourism

  • minimises negative economic, environmental, and social impacts;
  • generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry;
  • involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
  • makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s diversity;
  • provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
  • provides access for physically challenged people; and
  • is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence

(Source: ICRT)

Immediate results

  • Helps transferring wealth to impoverished communities.
  • Helps creating micro, small or medium size enterprises.  
  • Goods produced for tourism are generally consumed on the production site helping local people.

Tourists can then contribute to the well-being of Mekong inhabitants by encouraging and fostering companies involved into community and social responsibility. More than anywhere in Asia, CSR tourism create the difference in the Mekong area. Travellers can venture to discover local life of ethnics, helping in agriculture or education projects, supporting communities by buying local-made handicraft. They can also provide their support to well-known NGOs and associations which are involved into projects in the region.

Another way to practice CSR is to look at destinations beyond traditional circuits. Local DMC are able to help tour operators and travel agencies to set up new itineraries where authenticity will be the core experience for travellers.

Agencies have also to be careful to select DMC with a strong commitment on environment protection. Strict environment practices in tourism are turning into a norm for many travellers today.  Travellers are then able to easily distinguish ‘green washing programs’ from some tour operators to DMC acting in a responsible way to protect the environment.

Information can be found under

This site gives advices to become an ethical tour operator company and human rights linked to tourism.

Examples of responsible tourism activities in the GMS

– Visiting culinary and hotel schools teaching to impoverished children
– Massage and therapy with blind people in specialized health massage centres.
– Sleeping in ethnics villages and take part in daily activities.
– Looking and studying at wildlife and birds.
– Farming experience
– Fishing experience with local fishermen
– Caring for elephants and/or monkeys
– Soft adventure trekking
– Biking tours in the countryside
– Shopping for ethnic crafts
– Participating into a rehabilitation or development project with a community
– Providing free teaching for a couple of weeks in a local community

Children protection

The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism is an international Non Profit organisation. Members accepted set of voluntary guidelines implemented by the tourism sector that can effectively prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. Companies eligible for Code membership are any travel & tourism related private sector company, including tour operators, single hotel properties, hotel companies, associations, bus companies, car rental companies, airlines, resorts, amusement parks, travel booking companies and cruise lines. Travellers can then choose companies which decided to adopt this Code of Conduct, contributing to the well-being of children.

Code of Conduct description

Code adopters commit themselves to implement the following six criteria:

  1. To establish an ethical policy regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children.
  2. To train the personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations.
  3. To introduce a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of commercial sexual exploitation of children.
  4. To provide information to travellers by means of catalogues, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc.
  5. To provide information to local “key persons” (informal supporters of the Code) at the destinations.
  6. To report annually their activity.

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TravelDailyNews Asia-Pacific editorial team has an experience of over 35 years in B2B travel journalism as well as in tourism & hospitality marketing and communications.