River-based tourism along the Mekong is an emerging activity with significant potential for growth and impact on people’s livelihoods, and closely aligned with this year’s theme of “Authentic Experiences along the Mekong River”.
Following up from last year’s UNWTO River and Ocean Cruise Tourism workshop, held at the 2015 Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) in Danang, Central Vietnam, and sponsored by the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), the session provided an overview of river- and ocean-based tourism in the region and highlighted the current challenges and strategies in terms of infrastructure, key routes, source markets, and market access.
The recently published UNWTO Mekong River-based Tourism Product Development Report, produced in collaboration with ASEAN and VNAT in partnership with MTCO, deliberately aligns with the Mekong Tourism Marketing Strategy 2015-2020, and the ASEAN member countries’ shared objectives to develop river cruising as outlined in the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2011-2015 and ASEAN Tourism Marketing Strategy 2012-2015.
The study focuses on Mekong River-based tourism product development by reviewing the current situation and existing river-based activities, itineraries and river- based tourism products in the Mekong area. Strategically, the report makes several recommendations in areas related to planning, policy, product development, sustainability, public-private partnerships, safety, and security with the main identified objectives being to: protect the natural environment; broaden the concept of river-based tourism beyond high-end luxury cruising and sightseeing activities to include a wider range of land- based cultural or nature based activities; and invest in concepts and tourism products that better merge water and land based activities along rivers in ASEAN.
The presentation by report author and UNWTO consultant Peter Semone will summarize the key highlights and strategic recommendations of the report. The presentation is then followed by a panel discussion with cruise operators including John Boyd of Pandaw Cruises and Maarten Perdok of Heritage Line. It is hoped that this report will support further product development and assist the public and private sectors in planning and expanding the breadth river-based tourism activities along the Mekong River.
The 2016 Mekong Tourism Forum will be hosted by the Cambodia Ministry of Tourism (MoT) at the Sokha Beach Resort Sihanoukville on the beautiful Southern Coast of Cambodia from July 5 to July 7. More information, and the most updated agenda, is accessible at www.MekongTourismForum.org. As always, MTF strives to be as sustainable an event as possible, and is looking to move from printed brochures to a mobile app; please follow the app download link from the website.
In order to make it easy for even small- and medium-sized businesses to stay engaged, for the third time in a row, the 2016 Mekong Tourism Forum is free to attend for the first 150 qualified industry professionals, sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia. Travel professionals interested to participate can log into MTF dedicated website at www.MekongTourismForum.org to secure one of the 150 free seats.
The UNWTO Mekong River-based Tourism Product Development Report can be downloaded from the Mekong Tourism e-Library at http://www.mekongtourism.org/mekong-river-cruise/