Public voting open to supporting small responsible businesses during these challenging times.
Bangkok, Thailand - 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).
Please support these small businesses in these challenging times, and cast your vote for the 2021 Experience Mekong Showcases until March 31, 2021.
All members of the Experience Mekong Collection get exposure via channels of Mekong Tourism, including MekongTourism.org, ExperienceMekong.com, 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.