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Thailand, Germany, Canada now sharing a new Tourism Hero: Jens Thraenhart, also known as Mr. Mekong

Dr. Jens Thraenhart
Dr. Jens Thraenhart

The World Tourism Network is the extension of the discussion in response to the COVID pandemic. The Heroes program recognizes people that show resilience within the sector. The first tourism hero from Thailand is an expatriate, Mr. Jens Thraenhart.

He is also known as Mr. Mekong. Jens Thraenhart is now the First Tourism Hero in Thailand.

He has over 25 years of international travel, tourism, and hospitality experience, spanning positions in operations, marketing, business development, revenue management, strategic planning, and e-business. Early in his career Jens’s entrepreneurial edge was sharpened with him founding and operating a successful food catering company, starting a New York-based Internet leisure travel Internet company and managing an independent luxury golf resort in Germany.

In 2014, Jens Thraenhart was appointed by the tourism ministries of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and China (Yunnan and Guanxi) to head the Mekong Tourism Coordinating (MTCO) as its Executive Director. in 2008, he co-founded award-winning China digital marketing firm Dragon Trail in 2009, and has led marketing and Internet strategy teams with the Canadian Tourism Commission and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. Since 1999, he is CEO of Chameleon Strategies.

Educated at Cornell University with an MBA-accredited Masters of Management in Hospitality, and a joint Bachelor of Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the University Center ‘Cesar Ritz’ at Brig, Switzerland, Mr. Thraenhart was recognized as one of the travel industry’s top 100 rising stars by Travel Agent Magazine in 2003, was listed as one of HSMAI’s 25 Most Extraordinary Sales and Marketing Minds in Hospitality and Travel in 2004 and 2005, and named as one of the Top 20 Extraordinary Minds in European Travel and Hospitality in 2014. He is a UNWTO Affiliate Member, PATA Board Member, and past Chair of PATA China.

He was nominated as a tourism hero by Peter Richards of Tourlink Project in Thailand.

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Mr. Richard justified his nomination in saying:

I have known and worked on various projects with Jens on and off for over 10 years. He has an extraordinary capacity to connect with people from across sectors and roles, and make ‘inclusiveness’ into something which is practical and tangible.

He is just as comfortable and sincere working with government officers, champions of industry and grassroots NGOs; and somehow manages to find an authentic way to facilitate a smooth line of communication and mutual understanding between these stakeholder groups, going beyond stakeholders’ ‘hard-wired’ positions of antipathy (and sometimes historic antagonism).

In his role at MTCO, Jens has consistently succeeded to champion responsible tourism and sustainable tourism agendas, bringing visibility and benefits to SMEs and communities, and diplomatically weaving progressive agendas into high level public-private partnerships.

Jen’s balance and craft of diplomacy across stakeholder groups is extraordinarily difficult to achieve; and especially difficult to achieve with sincerity, and concrete results.

During his time as Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, Jens has continually delivered creative ideas, and reached for input and collaboration. He does not get despondent when people are too busy to get involved and he always lets you know that there is always another time and opportunity. The guy really is an inspiration, and makes very difficult facilitation seem pretty effortless. He deserves recognition.

There has been no lobbying behind this nomination. It’s sincere, from my professional appreciation of a leader towards partnerships for positive change in tourism.”

WTN Chairman Juergen Steinmetz sat down with Jens on Zoom.

The Hall of International Tourism Heroes is open by nomination only to recognize those that have shown extraordinary leadership, innovation, and actions. Tourism Heroes go the extra step.

There are never any fees, and anyone can be nominated at

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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Logan Levi

When these stories and places are shared with visitors, this activity becomes what is known as cultural heritage tourism. Success and sustainability in this. At the same time, more travelers, from boomers to millennials are searching for new adventures, forgoing the traditional list of destinations to find unique.

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