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," Thranhart explained.
Vietnam's startups qualifying for the Mekong Tourism Forum Investor Showcase include:
Dichung – Viet Nam – 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 – Viet Nam – Chameleon City is an on-demand chat-based service providing travel and lifestyle answers from local experts, 24/7.
I Love Asia – Viet Nam – 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.
Bayo – Viet Nam – 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.
Morning Rooms – Viet Nam – Morning Rooms is Viet Nam’s largest budget hotel network, helping economical tourists find the right quality rooms for the price they need.
Besides 5 startups from Vietnam, other companies include: Artisan Origins by TAEC(Lao PDR),BookMeBus(Cambodia),CamboTicket (Cambodia), ezStay (Myanmar), GoP (Myanmar), GuideInsider (Cambodia) and Ma Te Sai (Lao PDR).
“Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam 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 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.