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Mekong Tourism Forum 2018 transforming travel


This year’s Mekong Tourism Forum was held on the banks of the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom in NE Thailand which borders with Laos and just 200 kms from Vietnam.

The six-nation grouping is coordinated by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) which is administered out of the offices of the Department of Tourism of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand. Established with funding from the six governments of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand, which represent the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS).

The mighty Mekong River at Nakhon Phanom

This annual event draws tourism decision makers from the six countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region and was held from the 26 to 29 June at Nakhon Phanom university with the theme of ‘Transforming Travel – Transforming Lives.

In a bold move this year’s forum took us out of the conference room and into the surrounding villages to engage with local villagers. The welcome we received was spectacular and truly heartwarming.

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With eight thematic seminars to choose from I joined the wellness tourism group. Arriving by minivan under police escort the entire village of Tai So turned out to greet us.

The village has a small collection of weavers who grow and process cotton, spinning and dying yarn to produce their own cloth. A true cottage industry.

Tai So village welcome

70-80 villagers turned out to greet us dressed in their traditional finery.

Children from the surrounding schools put on a culture performance par excellence. Dancing to a tradition musical ensemble of talented musicians it was outstanding and joyful.

Lunch was equally spectacular. A selection of local ingredients unique to the village and presented in one of the most outstanding ways I have ever seen even after a quarter of a century of living in Thailand.

After lunch a workshop on Wellness in the GMS region. Led by Nick Day of Goco Hospitality based in Bangkok, the group brainstormed ideas of how to further promote the unique assets of the Mekong region towards Wellness Tourism.

After a tour of the village and a traditional Baysri sukhway (a Thai blessing ceremony) we returned to Nakhon Phanom.

It was a huge success and a highlight for me. It was experimental – a new approach, conference sessions in local communities with eight thematic strategy workshops of food tourism, adventure tourism, wellness tourism, religious tourism, heritage tourism, eco-tourism, festival tourism, and organic tourism

By visiting and engaging with the local communities, delegates and villagers were able to interact with each other thus “Transforming Travel and Transforming Lives” the theme of MTF2018. It was a unique experiment and executed perfectly. I’m sure both villagers and delegates will remember the day for a very long time.

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Andrew J. Wood - eTN Thailand

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