New Mekong Initiative to Boost Tourism Investment and Innovation

(L-R) DNES Deputy CEO Nguyen Tran, ADB MBI Head Dominic Mellor, and MTCO Executive Director Jens Thraenhart launch MIST in Ho Chi Minh City
Mekong Initiative for Startup Tourism (MIST) – matching startup teams with international mentors, market opportunities and investors

A new initiative to catalyse tourism sector growth in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam has been launched.

The Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) initiative invites startups, particularly those led by local men and women, to participate in a contest to develop solutions for identified tourism market opportunities. Winners will be matched with suitable investors.

The first MIST reverse hackathon and tourism startup competition will take place in Danang in early 2017.

The official organizers of MIST are the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) and the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI). MTCO receives funding from the governments of Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. MBI receives funding from the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Australia.

In Viet Nam, MIST is co-organized with the Da Nang Business Incubator (DNES). Partners include the Seoul Global Startup Center and the Swiss Government funded SECO Entrepreneurship Program.

“Tourism is a major industry in Danang and the Startup Council is committed to foster startups and promote innovative approaches for sustainable growth of the industry.” said Mr. Vo Duy Khuong, Chairman of the Danang Startup Network Coordinating Council and Danang Business Incubator.

“Innovation and technologies are transforming the world’s tourism sector, but the Mekong region has lagged behind. We are eager to see the region’s startups innovate and create new avenues for tourism growth.” said Dominic Mellor, head of the MBI at the Asian Development Bank.

“The Greater Mekong Sub-region is a magnet for tourism, but accelerating tourist volumes have also brought challenges to drive inclusive growth. The region will need to develop and innovate if it is to sustain today’s growth over the long term.” said Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the MTCO.

The MIST program works with with local tourism industry players to identify critical industry challenges and bottlenecks. The program then solicits global solutions from experienced innovators, encourage exchanges between global providers and startups led by local men and women, and structures competitions among startup teams.

The best startup teams from across the region’s four countries will be invited to an intensive bootcamp and Demo Day at the 2017 Mekong Tourism Forum in Luang Prabang, Laos.  The best Vietnamese startups will be further invited to a Demo Day at the APEC Investment Summit in November 2017 in Danang, Vietnam.