Collaboration Crucial for Regional Tourism Recovery

The Destination Mekong Summit in Phnom Penh saw hundreds of industry players gather in person and online to discuss how to sustainably recover tourism across the region
The Destination Mekong Summit in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Marissa Carruthers
The Destination Mekong Summit in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Marissa Carruthers

The Destination Mekong Summit (DMS) brought together hundreds of industry players online and in person, with collaboration emerging as having the power to aid sustainable tourism recovery across the region.

On December 14 and 15, Destination Mekong (DM) – the private-sector regional tourism board of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), which is headquartered in Cambodia and Singapore – hosted the third edition of DMS.

The hybrid event took place on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich under the theme ‘Together – Smarter – Stronger’. Throughout the two days, hundreds of tourism players attended from across the Mekong region, including high-ranking officials, private-sector decision-makers, influencers, social entrepreneurs and students studying in the fields of tourism and hospitality.

In his opening remarks, Seng Meng Hong, Director of the Mekong Cooperation Department, General Department of Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said, “Undoubtedly, with strong commitment and collective efforts, our tourism industry in the GMS will certainly transform towards sustainable and more socially-resilient tourism.”

DMS featured eight thematic panel sessions that spanned a series of topics, including innovative capacity-building, sustainable food and beverage, business recovery marketing and branding, and opportunities and threats for tourism recovery in the GMS.

Sieng Neak, Deputy Director-General, Tourism Development and International Cooperation of the Ministry of Tourism, said, “The theme of the 2022 DMS is in line with our campaign ‘Think Together, Act Together, and Take Responsibility Together’, which means we have to work together to recover and rebuild our tourism industry during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The second day’s agenda took in three parallel workshops and training sessions, including ‘Training of tour guides as wildlife champions and agents for positive changes’, led by WWF, ‘Sustainable tourism recovery with child protection in focus’, led by Gabriela Kuhn, Head of Programme of ECPAT International, and ‘Digital marketing for travel and tourism businesses’, led by Gerrit Kruger, Chief Marketing Officer of DM.

“Global travel and tourism are making a comeback, but it’s important that we don’t revert to old behaviours," said Jedsada Taweekan, head of WWF-Greater Mekong's Illegal Wildlife Trade programme.

“The way forward must be green and sustainable, and consider the needs of wildlife and the environment, in addition to the needs of travellers. Therefore, working with the travel and tourism sector to encourage tourists to have responsible tourism experiences – at the minimum by refraining from consuming wild animal meat or buying wildlife products as souvenirs – is a small but effective way to promote positive change in tourist behaviour.”

Thierry Tea, VP at OCIC Group, said he is excited to explore collaborating with the public and private sectors, as well as non-profit organisations from the tourism industry, to showcase secondary destinations in the country, such as Battambang, Mondulkiri and Preah Vihear.

Catherine Germier-Hamel, DM CEO, added, “The 2022 DMS was not only a perfect conclusion to this year of transition but also an ideal welcome to an upcoming year of recovery and reinvention for the global tourism industry, globally and in the Mekong region.”