Mekong Tourism Forum 2012

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Mekong Tourism Forum 2012
Written by Administrator    Friday, 28 September 2012 15:32    PDF Print E-mail
The Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) is the flagship annual gathering for the six-nation Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), consisting of Cambodia, China (specifically Yunnan and Guangxi), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Since 1996, the MTF has provided a platform for stakeholders in the tourism industry to discuss the development and promotion of travel to, from and within the GMS. The MTF is inclusive, interactive and results-oriented, encouraging all participants to work together to effectively market the GMS as a single destination. The 2012 edition of the Mekong Tourism Forum took place at the Dusit Island Resort in the historic city of Chiang Rai, "the gateway to the Mekong", under the theme, "20/20 Vision: Building on Two Decades of GMS Cooperation." Chiang Rai province was chosen as the host city of the Mekong Tourism Forum 2012 due to its magnificent tourism resources, services and infrastructure. It's also a gateway to Myanmar and Laos and other Mekong countries. This is also an important year for Chiang Rai as it marks the 750th anniversary of Chiang Rai City, so hosting MTF 2012 was considered a great opportunity for the city to celebrate this auspicious event with friends from GMS countries and other international partners.
  "The Forum was the event of the year for travel industry professional dedicated to putting the GMS on the global travel map as a single destination," said Mason Florence, executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office in Bangkok. "Tourism leaders from the public and private sectors and regional development partners realize that the Forum is the ideal place for travel industry people who are serious about exploring the region's cross-border potential."
  As part of the Forum, the Thai Ministry of Tourism & Sports organized the Mekong Trading Post to introduce local arts and crafts as well as local products to all MTF participants and the general public. There was also a workshop for tourist guides & tour operators and a workshop on community- based tourism, and four complementary post-Forum tours.

  "The Mekong Tourism Forum provides great inspiration to companies seeking to innovate and grow across the Greater Mekong Region," said Willem Niemeijer, CEO and co-founder of Khiri Group. "The Forum proved to be a great source of synergy between grass roots operators, multi-national hotel chains, destination management companies, NGOs, government bodies and the media."
  Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) organized the first Mekong Tourism Forum in 1996 and led it for 10 consecutive years. The hosting of this influential annual event rotated among destinations within the GMS until 2005. In subsequent years private sector initiated events around the region continued to work towards the forum's goals. The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) revived the forum in 2010 staging it in Siem Reap, Cambodia with the theme of "New Roads, New Opportunities". This was followed by MTF2011, held in Pakse, Laos, with the theme "Destination Mekong: The Making of a Star".
Forum Overview
  After 20 years of cooperation, the GMS now attracts over 30 million international visitor arrivals each year, which generate significant economic and social benefits. The tourism sector contributes over US$30 billion in annual receipts to the GMS' GDP annually and is directly involved in the reduction of poverty through the creation of employment, including the creation of six million jobs, many of which are taken by women, youth and ethnic minorities.
  The forum focus was on the development of human resources, sustainable tourism, sub-regional product development and marketing for the next 20 years, in the context of achievements from the past 20 years. Speakers delivered a candid assessment of what progress has, and has not, been accomplished in the GMS countries and by donors like the Asian Development Bank.
  The GMS countries are collectively targeting 52 million international tourist arrivals with US$53 billion in sub-regional tourism by 2015. There were 10 million arrivals in 1995, rising to 35 million in 2011.
  "A great deal has been achieved," said Mason Florence. "Multi-country holidays are now common in the GMS, but we still need to reduce red tape, increase cross-border flows, and boost sustainable tourism in rural areas where incomes are still too low." Tourists surveyed in the six countries say that friendly people are one of the area's most important assets. The forum assessed how the attraction, retention, training and development of the Mekong workforce has progressed as well as what still needs to be done.
  Participants addressed the recent changes in Myanmar and the impact of the ASEAN Economic Cooperation, due in 2015. There was a session on how private and public sector tourism operators can better leverage the shift to electronic distribution and social media.
Google & TAT Team Up for eTourism Day
Chiang Rai played host to eTourism Day, a technology showcase joint initiative by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Google to help local tourism stakeholders leverage technology to build their businesses, and the "Chiang Rai: Gateway to the Mekong" brand.
  Sitting at the crossroads of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), Chiang Rai is uniquely positioned to benefit from growing economic opportunities through increased tourism and the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
  eTourism Day sessions were held in both Thai and English, and lead by experts from TAT and Google Thailand, along with Dragon Trail, which has previously run GMS social media "boot camps" in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
  Thapanee Kiatphaibool, Director, Marketing Information Technology Group, Tourism Authority of Thailand, led a session on 'Building the Chiang Rai brand via Social Media and Digital Marketing'. "We are very keen to support this initiative," said Ms. Kiatphaibool, "and to help enable local travel and tourism professionals make use of emerging technologies to bolster their businesses."
  Ariya Banomyong, Country Head of Google Thailand, lead a session on Google solutions for businesses. According to Mr Banomyong, "Globally, 6 out of 10 travelers use search engines as their number one source for travel information so helping businesses in Chiang Rai go online and connect with potential customers is only a click away. We're delighted to continue our partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and through eTourism Day provide practical tools that can contribute to the economic growth of the tourism industry and local Thai businesses in this community who will benefit directly from increased visitors and international visibility."
  eTourism Day took place at the Le Meridien Resort Chiang Rai, one day prior to the Mekong Tourism Forum 2012, which brought together leaders from across the GMS to assess the challenges and opportunities for this vibrant sub-region to continue to move forward and realize its potential.
Cross-border travel key to Chiang Rai's tourism future
By Willem Niemeijer, CEO, Khiri Travel Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand, has issues. It is at the geographic centre of the Greater Mekong region. But despite its physical beauty and advantageous location adjacent to Myanmar, Laos and the Mekong River, Chiang Rai's tourism sector has long underperformed.