Mekong Food Tourism Summit Will Welcome Cambodia’s First Master Chef

Cambodian Chef Luu Meng examines rice in the kitchen of his restaurant Malis (Photo: Phnom Penh Post)

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office is proud to introduce the first half-day Mekong Food Tourism Summit during the 2016 Mekong Tourism Forum on July 5 to 7 in Sihanoukville. The concept is done in collaboration with the College of Innovation of Bangkok-based Thammasat University, and UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies. Lat year, at the 2015 Mekong Tourism Forum in Da Nang, Viet Nam, the Marketing Workshop featured already food tourism among various themes.

According to Professor Dr. Walter Jamieson, Director of the College of Innovation at Thammasat University: “Food tourism is a local phenomenon of universal scope that is in a clear growth phase; it has a positive impact on the economy, employment and local heritage, as tourists seek to get to know not only the local food but also to know its origin and production processes, making it an expression of cultural tourism.”

The 2012 UNWTO Culinary Tourism Report points out that this is especially important for rural communities, many of which have struggled in the face of rapid urbanization and shifts away from traditional economic sectors. With their proximity to food-producing lands, rural communities often enjoy a comparative advantage when it comes to serving up traditional fare. Tourism, particularly food tourism, allows these communities to generate income and employment opportunities locally, while fuelling other sectors of the local economy such as agriculture.

Cambodia’s only Master Chef Luu Meng will give an insight how his experience has given him opportunities to bring Khmer culture to the world to inspire travellers via authentic food experiences. Luu Meng has worked with Anthony Bourdaine and appeared in an episode of the Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape as a guest chef as well has having bestowed with the honorable title of ‘Cambodian Master Chef’ in recognition of his creativity and celebration of Cambodian dishes. Luu Meng hails form a lineage of culinary celebration, whose grandmother honed her own skills in the Kitchen of the Royal Palace.

Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office is personally excited about leveraging food to position the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). He says: “The Mekong region couldn’t be better placed to satisfy the need, and position the region as a multi-country, must-visit tourism destination. Especially due to the fact that agriculture and tourism are vital pillars of the region’s economy, from local street food to rising celebrity chefs, from bustling markets to pictorial rice fields. Against this background, food tourism has gained increasing attention over the past years. Tourists are attracted to local produce and the many destinations are centering their product development and marketing accordingly. With food so deeply connected to its origin, this focus allows the GMS to market itself as truly unique, appealing to those travellers who look to feel part of the destination through its flavours. As identified in the 2015-2020 Experience Mekong Tourism Marketing Strategy & Action Plan, we already see that food is one of the main motivators for tourists to visit the GMS member countries, and is closely linked to developing authentic experiences in the Mekong Region.”

This first Mekong Food Tourism Summit will give an overview of the power of food tourism to position the GMS via tangible examples and case studies from other destinations, and providing context in linking it to the GMS. An expert panel will highlight already great work that is being done when it comes to food tourism in the region, especially in Thailand, Cambodia, and Viet Nam.

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.