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Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and Mekong Institute partner on new Mekong COVID-19 Innovations Crowdsourcing Initiative

Author: Theodore Koumelis / Date: Mon, 06/01/2020 - 02:02
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Curation of innovative ideas and initiatives in the Greater Mekong Subregion during the Corona Virus pandemic to instill consumer confidence and encourage investment.

Covid-19 is a terrible shock to the global economy as well as the thousands of individuals and families it has affected. Companies in the immediate term need to ensure that the health and safety of its workers, partners and suppliers come first. Over the longer term, Covid-19 has irrevocably changed the way businesses will compete over the next decade. Firms that choose to capitalize on these underlying changes will succeed and the ones that don’t will get disrupted.

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), Destination Mekong, and the Mekong Institute (MI) have partnered on a new initiative to encourage anybody to crowdsource newly spotted innovations reacting to the current Covid-19 pandemic in the Greater Mekong Subregion (Yunnan and Guangxi in PR China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam). Innovations may come from government, large companies, small businesses, startups, individuals, or partnerships. 

The goal of this Mekong initiative is to instill consumer confidence of residents and tourists by visualizing tangible initiatives being innovated and implemented. The showcased innovations may also inspire businesses and organizations in other Mekong countries to adapt and learn from these initiatives. Finally, this initiative may also attract foreign investment into the region as it positions the region as being innovative, resilient, and creative.

Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO): “The outbreak of the COVID-19 disease has posed great challenges to the worldwide economy and the and people’s lives in the Greater Mekong Subregion with far-reaching consequences beyond the spread of the disease. At the same time, crisis is also a strong driver of creativity and innovation, and provides a trigger for thinking differently.” The Chinese characters for crisis capture this well; the word is assembled from two pictograms, one for "threat" and the other for "opportunity. He added: “Indeed, if examined closely, one can already observe abundant creativity and innovation emerging at the national, institutional, organizational, and individual levels within the countries affected by COVID-19.  We already see that various innovations are born out of need and desperation, from startups to established businesses, including a Rice ATM in Vietnam, mobile tracking apps, and a sharing pantry in Thailand.” 

We can expect interesting innovations to come out of this pandemic, that may even lead to new ventures and successful companies, as we have witnessed from passed crisis, such as SARS and the 2008 financial crisis. The SARS pandemic of 2002-2004 catalyzed the meteoric growth of a then-small e-commerce company called Ali Baba and helped establish it at the forefront of retail in Asia. This growth was fueled by underlying anxiety around traveling and human contact, similar to what we see today with Covid-19. The financial crises of 2008 also produced its own disruptive side effects. Airbnb and Uber shot up in popularity across the west as the subprime crises meant lower savings and income for the masses, forcing people to share assets in the form of spare rooms and car rides in order to cover for the deficit. 

“While COVID-19 threatens the global community, it is also channeling creativity in coping with this pandemic disruption,” said Mekong Institute Executive Director Dr. Watcharas Leelawath. He emphasized how this crisis can serve as a catalyst in sparking innovation and investment in the region. “MI and MTCO aims to surface innovative practices and solutions—from agriculture, health, education, tourism, environment, trade and logistics, among others—that are generating benefits and opportunities,” he added.

This is the first partnership between the two organizations focusing on economic development, inclusive growth, capacity building, and sustainability in the member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion. 

The most inspiring innovations will be featured on the website, newsletters, and social media channels of MTCO and MI. It is also planned to publish a future Mekong Stories book to showcase the stories behind the innovations and innovators.

Finally, amid the current COVID-19 crisis, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office has set up the “Support Experience Mekong Collection members” page on its website to help small businesses struggling to survive the crisis due to financial strain and lost revenues. The page lists businesses that are asking for donations or selling gift certificates. MTCO Executive Director Jens Thraenhart remarks: “Experience Mekong Collection members provide these locally authentic experiences to travelers and residents alike, which make the Mekong Region so exciting and interesting. Connecting with local culture and its people is the foundation of the Experience Mekong brand. Now these experiences are in danger of not surviving these difficult times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses are struggling to pay their employees, and cover their expenses. We all have a duty and a responsibility to now help these operators, for the better of sustainable and responsible tourism of the region for the short-term and the long-term.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theodore Koumelis

Co-Founder & Managing Director

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.