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Mekong Tourism Forum 2018 opens in Nakhon Phanom


Thailand’s Vice Minister of Tourism HE Ittipol Khunpluem officially declared the 21st Mekong Tourism Forum 2018 open to an estimated record 370 attendees in the northeastern riverside town of Nakhon Phanom, Thailand.

No stranger to tourism HE Ittipol Khunpluem was the former mayor of Pattaya and was appointed Vice Minister of Tourism in April 2018.

This annual event draws tourism decision makers from the six countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region and is being held from the 26 to 29 June at Nakhon Phanom university with the theme of ‘Transforming Travel – Transforming Lives. MTF 2018 is held under collaboration of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO).

One of the highlights of the forum this year is a new approach, with a number of conference sessions being held together with local communities in their villages, under eight thematic strategy workshops:

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•food tourism
•adventure tourism
•wellness tourism
•religious tourism
•heritage tourism
•festival tourism
•organic tourism

These will be conducted in eight ethnic community villages around Nakhon Phanom with regional experts. By visiting and engaging with the local communities, organizers are hoping the delegates and villagers will be able to interact with each other thus “Transforming Travel and Transforming Lives” the theme of MTF2018. It will be a unique experiment and is eagerly anticipated.

The program for the MTF 2018 contains three distinct parts this year. Kicking off with ‘Transforming Travel’ sessions yesterday, explored the potential for transforming travel and people’s lives. Secondly mini keynote presentations from senior executives representing different travel sectors takes place today along with the hot topic discussion of reducing single-use plastic in the GMS moderated by Khiri Reach. Thirdly thematic sessions hosted by local communities will take place in the afternoon.

Prior to the official opening, two integrated side events took place including the Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) Conference and the inaugural Mekong Mini Movie Festival. The decision to split these events away from the ‘official’ core content was a mistake in my mind, down-grading their importance. They were well attended, generating not only dialogue but also commercial interest.

Thailand’s Vice Minister of Tourism HE Ittipol Khunpluem speaking at a press conference with Jens Thraenhart Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (left)

MTF 2018 will conclude with a post tour on 29 June, featuring visits to Nakhon Phanom’s important Buddhist landmarks, Wat Phra That Phanom, and sightseeing of the province’s town center.

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Andrew J. Wood - eTN Thailand

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