2019 Mekong Tourism Forum innovates with new inclusive concept in ancient town

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Hosted by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism of P.R. China (MCT) and the People’s Government of Yunnan Province in collaboration with the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, this year’s edition of the Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) will be a two-day event held in beautiful Dali and the ancient heritage town Xizhou in Yunnan in southwestern China on May 28 and 29 respectively. The event will focus on the theme of “Tourism – a driver for cultural heritage preservation and poverty alleviation”.

The first day (May 28) being held in Dali New Town at the Dali Conference Centre will feature the official opening, inspiring MTF keynotes and sessions, which will drive discussions and debate. The day will close with a Gala Dinner hosted by the People’s Government of Yunnan at Dali International Hotel, located adjacent to the Conference Center.

Key Mekong Tourism initiatives featured on the first day include the launch of the new Mekong Trends Report on Responsible Tourism in the GMS, the introduction of the new Experience Mekong Collection website, and the screening of some of the most inspiring videos of the Mekong Mini Movie Festival campaign.

One of the two keynotes of MTF 2019 is Brian Linden, the owner of the award-winning Linden Centre hotel in Xizhou, Yunnan. Dr. Linden will look at how sustainable tourism is shaping the way the industry is developing, which also includes an insight into the extensive rail network in China.

According to Dr. Linden, “Tourism has not evolved in China… it has exploded. And our industry has scrambled, often blindly, to capture a part of this lucrative trade. We should remember that we pursue our projects on social and cultural canvases that are far from empty. These resources, the history, heritage, and hospitality of the Asian peoples should be the foundation for all future tourism development.”

The afternoon keynote will be given by Mei Zhang, founder of award-winning travel company Wild China and a native of Dali. Ms. Zhang will take the MTF 2019 delegates on her own personal journey of Yunnan, the importance of connecting culture with tourism to achieve heritage preservation, poverty alleviation, and sustainability.

Ms. Zhang said: “I am very pleased to be part at this year’s Mekong Tourism Forum, and I am even more excited that the 2019 Mekong Tourism Forum is in my hometown of Dali. My recent book “Travels through Dali with a leg of ham” took me on my own search of the region’s unique traditions, culture, and cuisine. I am very excited to be sharing my own story of growing up in Yunnan, to showcasing authentic travel experiences in China.”

The second day (May 29) will be hosted in the ancient heritage town of Xizhou, which is located 20 km north of Dali Old Town and is part of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern Yunnan, China. Xizhou has been historically important as a trading post along the Tea Horse Road and has gained notability for its high concentration of preserved and restored traditional Bai architecture and protected heritage sites. To take into consideration the requirements of this living ancient heritage town, this year’s Mekong Tourism Forum will be more intimate, limiting the number of delegates.

According to Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, “We are grateful to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China and the People’s Government of Yunnan for giving us the opportunity to fully integrate this year’s Mekong Tourism Forum with the local residents of a heritage town. In the efforts to be highly inclusive, the cultural learning experiences will be held in small artisan businesses and lunches will be served in local restaurants. This might be the first tourism conference in the world that showcases sustainability in this kind of way.”

This approach is similar to the 2017 Mekong Tourism Forum in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR, which received a lot of recognition internationally, including by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as one of the most inclusive tourism events.

The Xizhou Experience is organized by the Linden Centre and hosted by the Dali government. Linden Centre was recognized by the MTCO as one of the six 2019 Experience Mekong Collection Showcases.

Registrations for this year’s MTF are once again free of charge for travel and tourism professionals, courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China and the Yunnan Provincial Government.

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