The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) announced on Saturday, May 30th during a webinar hosted by the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Association that the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar decided to move the annual Mekong Tourism Forum dates to February 15-16, 2021 from August 25-26, 2020, amid the current COVID-19 pandemic. The reasoning is based on current travel restrictions, and the low likelihood that conference delegates would be comfortable in a closed meeting venue with over 300 people.
Myanmar will continue to host the forum in Bagan essentially to promote its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site a designation that was awarded in July 2019. The theme will still be “Achieving Balanced Tourism”, with a focus on rebuilding tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
The MTCO executive director, Jens Thraenhart said: “The theme ‘Achieving Balanced Tourism’ is more relevant than ever, because we have a big opportunity to reset tourism and become more sustainable by embracing innovative models such as ‘Doughnut Economics’, and leveraging regional collaboration by creating travel bubbles to accelerate tourism recovery.”
“While nobody can predict if travel will actually be possible in February and people will be comfortable in being together at a conference with hundreds of delegages, we are now setting the new dates, and hope for the best.”, continues Jens Thraenhart. “We will be working hard with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar, the private sector organizations led by the Myanmar Tourism Federation and the various domestic travel trade associations, as well as regional and international MICE experts to ensure a safe event with appropriate hygiene measurements in place.”
Bagan is an important and iconic destination in the Greater Mekong Subregion, so we decided to have the first physical post Covid-19 Mekong Tourism Forum to be in the UNESCO World Heritage town. The annual Mekong Tourism Forum is hosted by the GMS member countries via a rotational plan, which will shift forward by one year accordingly. As such, Viet Nam will be the host of the Mekong Tourism Forum in 2022.
A spokesperson of the Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar commented: “We are extremely proud to host the first Mekong Tourism Forum post the Covid-19 pandemic. This will be an important tourism event not only for Myanmar, but for the entire Greater Mekong Subregion, and even ASEAN, as the event will set strategies and collaborations for rebuilding tourism in the region in the most sustainable way. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Bagan, located in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar, dates back to the 9th centuries, and its pagodas have survived the changing times. There could be not a more perfect venue to define the future of tourism in the Greater Mekong subregion.”
The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office is planning a half-day Virtual Mekong Tourism Forum via video conferencing in the afternoon of Tuesday, August 25th, with a focus on resilience and recovery of tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, via the public-private sector partnership framework Destination Mekong, has implemented various initiatives to collaborate with the tourism industry in the region during these challenging times, including the establishment of the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG), Corona Virus Resource webpages to inform the industry about travel restrictions and policies, a support mechanism for its small businesses being part of the Experience Mekong Collection, and a partnership with Mekong Institute to curate innovative ideas and projects responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) program has also opened its nomination period for 2020 with a focus on resilience. Other regional are in development, such as a new regional tourism social media campaign #MekongMemories to create a content cloud of past experiences to inspire people to #TravelTomorrow, and the new Mekong Deals platform to feature non-refundable vouchers sold by travel operators to help survive this crisis during this challenging time. A virtual travel trade platform to connect travel businesses in the Mekong Region to over 50,000 B2B buyers in the Chinese market is projected to launch in Q4 of 2020 in collaboration with leading travel technology and marketing firm Dragon Trail Interactive.