The Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) 2023, themed “Rethinking for Resilience and Digitalization,” concluded successfully at the Independence Hotel in Preah Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on April 26, 2023. Over 200 international and local delegates participated in the MTF, hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia, in collaboration with the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), supported by the Asian Development Bank.
The MTF focused on rethinking the future of GMS tourism while leveraging digitalization to ensure resilient and inclusive growth in the post-COVID-19 era. Regional tourism leaders, experts, and businesses gathered to discuss critical challenges and high-priority issues to chart the way forward for regional tourism. The event welcomed the participation of the Ambassador of Lao PDR to Cambodia, representatives from the Embassy of Japan and the Embassy of China, and senior officials from the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries.
Representing the host country, H.E. Dr. Thong Khong, Minister of Tourism, Cambodia, stated in his opening remarks: “The key stakeholders from the public and private sectors gathering together today will create unique opportunities to spearhead innovative and collaborative frameworks for tourism recovery towards resilience in this post-COVID-19 era and bring back what we have lost in tourism.”
Mr. Peter Semone, Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, set the stage with a keynote speech on the pathway for building better and stronger tourism. Rethinking tourism for resilience and sustainability in the GMS should focus on managing and measuring tourism as an integrated ecosystem, optimizing efficiencies along the tourism value chain, treating tourism workers better, renewing the approach to entrepreneurship and innovation, facilitating the growth and prosperity of micro, small, and medium enterprises, empowering communities in tourism, responding to the needs, wants, and responsibilities of visitors, as well as managing the intersection of tourism and technology.
MTF 2023 presented three insightful panel discussions on challenges, opportunities, and strategic actions related to building a smart tourism ecosystem, redefining gender roles to empower women, and enhancing the quality of the tourism workforce for a resilient future. Each panel featured a diverse pool of industry experts from the public sector, tourism businesses, and development organizations, including AirAsia, Amadeus, the Asian Development Bank, Canopy Sands Development, Swisscontact, and UNWTO, among others.
Another highlight of the MTF was a sustainable tourism exhibition showcasing responsible tourism businesses from across the region that generate positive impacts on the environment and local communities. The participating exhibitors included the Cambodian Handicraft Association for Landmine and Polio Disabled (CHA), Canopy Sand, Cardamom Tented Camp, Destination Mekong, HoKa Skills Demonstration, Koh Samseb Community-Based Tourism, Song Saa Collective, SPOONS Cambodia Organization, Three Corner Coffee Roaster, the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, and the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Association.
MTF 2023 was preceded by the 51st Meeting of the Greater Mekong Subregion Tourism Working Group (51st GMS TWG) and the MTCO Board Meeting on April 25. MTF 2024 will be held in Lijiang, China, next May.