Organizers of the Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) accelerator program announced that 12 startups from Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam have qualified to pitch their business plans to investors at the Mekong Tourism Forum, 6 June in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR.
Industry experts selected the 12 startups from more than 250 applications spanning travel technology solutions, traditional tourism products, hospitality projects and social enterprises. All 12 attended a three-day training and evaluation program, 5-7 May in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where experts from Amadeus Next, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Buffalo Tours (TMG), Clickable Vietnam, Entrepid Advisors, Gobi Ventures, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), and Triip.me mentored the startups.
MIST co-creator Jens Thraenhart, executive director of MTCO, explained that it is critical in today’s competitive and fast changing travel and tourism landscape to integrate innovation and startups into tourism development planning. MTCO is currently the only regional tourism organization that incorporates startups into its tourism strategy development process.
“In addition to conventional evaluation criteria, the startups qualifying to pitch at the Mekong Tourism Forum were also assessed on socioeconomic factors such as contribution to responsible tourism development of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), employment of local people especially women, and inclusive growth,” Thraenhart explained.
Startups qualifying for the Mekong Tourism Forum Investor Showcase include:
Artisan Origins by TAEC – Lao PDR – Artisan Origins offers authentic, high quality crafts from rural ethnic communities in Lao PDR, a café and information center about visiting handicraft communities, and displays about the ethnic groups, cultural context and techniques demonstrated through the crafts.
Bayo – Vietnam – Bayo’s mission is to help Vietnamese make the best travel decisions by helping them find the right travel information, right suppliers, right products and prices, and to transact with local suppliers easily.
BookMeBus – Cambodia – BookMeBus connects travelers and bus operators in real time, helping bus companies fill their seats and users find the most cost-effective ways to easily get around the region.
CamboTicket – Cambodia – CamboTicket aggregates bus, ferry and private taxi bookings around Cambodia and Laos into one platform, creating an even playing field for over 40 operators.
I Love Asia – Vietnam – I Love Asia offers women-led motorbike tours of Hoi An and Hue while supporting projects for disadvantaged communities in the cities where they operate.
Dichung – Vietnam – Dichung uses technology to promote low-impact rideshare transportation options, giving drivers the chance to trade free seats in their vehicles, and working with taxi companies to develop vanpools.
Chameleon City – Vietnam – Chameleon City is an on-demand chat-based service providing travel and lifestyle answers from local experts, 24/7.
ezStay – Myanmar – ezStay offers hotel reviews and instant booking confirmation, including for hotels and guesthouses without an online presence, broadening and simplifying accommodation bookings for travelers in Myanmar.
GoP – Myanmar – GoP is an online tour platform amassing providers and options into one place, offering high-quality service, reliable bookings and instant confirmation.
GuideInsider – Cambodia – GuideInsider offers comprehensive in-country guidance on local sights and activities, including history, opening times, available tour guides, possible tour packages and user reviews.
Ma Te Sai – Lao PDR – Ma Te Sai preserves cultural heritages while developing skills and offering employment options for youth in Nambak through tourism to unique TaiLue villages via a multipurpose information center and roadside café.
Morning Rooms – Vietnam – Morning Rooms is Vietnam’s largest budget hotel network, helping economical tourists find the right quality rooms for the price they need.
“Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam are all counting on tourism to contribute to their economic growth and socio-economic development. While governments can provide favorable policy conditions for tourism development, startups must do the hard work of enticing tourists, creating jobs and generating income. MIST has proven that the region’s startups are up to the challenge,” said Dominic Mellor, head of the MBI.
The Mekong Tourism Forum (www.MekongTourismForum.org) is an annual platform for public and private sector stakeholders to discuss the development, marketing and promotion of travel to, from and within the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). It will take place in Luang Prabang from June 6-9, 2017. Qualifying MIST startups will present their business plans to media, investors and an expert judging panel. Four will be awarded innovation grants of $7,000-$10,000 USD.
About MIST: MIST is a leading tourism accelerator for Asia’s top growth markets, giving startups everything they need to launch successfully, achieve profitability, create jobs and impact communities in the Greater Mekong Region. In addition to grants up to $10,000, the MIST startup accelerator offers exposure, connections to local stakeholders and ecosystems, individualized coaching and the chance to network with investors and global accelerator programs. MIST is a joint project of the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO). On Facebook: Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism. www.MIST.asia
About the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) – MBI is an advisory facility that promotes private sector development in Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, and Vietnam. MBI fosters development of the innovation ecosystem by supporting business advocacy, alternative finance and innovation. It is supported by the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Australia. On Facebook: Mekong Business Initiative.