Mekong Tourism Forum 2023 linking digitization with tourism recovery
Update: Apr 28, 2023
(TITC) – On 26th April 2023, Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) 2023 was organized in Cambodia under the theme “Rethinking for Resilience and Digitalization”. VNAT’s Vice Chairman Nguyen Le Phuc leading the Vietnamese delegation attended the forum.

Opening the forum, H.E. Dr. Thong Khon - Minister of Tourism (MoT) of Cambodia said this is the 3rd time that the MoT-Cambodia hosting The Mekong Tourism Forum. This forum is one of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) comprehensive cooperation platforms between governments, policy makers, institutes, professions, relevant authorities, private and public stakeholders in the tourism industry to discuss and share the best practices, experiences, current status of tourism development, marketing and promotion of travel within the GMS region.

Minister Thong Khon proposed all GMS member countries to continue to actively implement the existing priority action plans and activities as follows:  The Mekong Tourism Strategy 2016-2025; Enhance the participation of public- private partnership activities; Promote communication and joint tourism promotion “Six countries, One destination” via the implementation of the GMS Tourism Recovery Communication Plan and joint promotion activities to support a safe and sustainable tourism recovery in the Greater Mekong Subregion; GMS Tourism Recovery Communications Toolkit to help GMS tourism stakeholders communicate their rebuilding efforts more effectively; Continue to collaborate with development partners, international organizations, the private sector, and the media to foster a resilient rebound.

At the main panel session "Rethinking tourism - The road to rebuilding a better and stronger way", Mr. Peter Semone, Chairman of Asia Pacific Travel Association (PATA) said the Covid-19 pandemic crisis has provided an opportunity to rethink tourism and reorganize the industry. Rethinking tourism will ensure that the restart and recovery of the tourism industry is more growth driven, and that such growth is inclusive, with the economic benefits being enjoyed in a way that widespread and fair as well as feasible.

The PATA’s Chairman outlined concepts, strategies and recommendations for rethinking tourism based on key issues and opportunities, especially those affecting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Mekong River region.

From the perspective of "Rethinking the culinary system - Leverage to protect the planet", Mr. Luu Meng - CEO of Almond Group said that food is an important part of the travel experience. A sustainable culinary system is a fundamental part of tourism resilience.

The panel provided a comprehensive look at how sustainable culinary systems can be used as a tool to address key development challenges in the Mekong region and on leveraging innovation in digital technology for culinary system transformation.

At the discussion session on Smart Tourism and Smart Destination through Digital, moderated by Mr. Ben-Jie Lim (Team Leader, Super App, AirAsia) showed that smart tourism is the way to go post Covid-19. Smart tourism initiatives, such as smart ticketing, digital payments, smart security services, virtual reality tours and city guide robots have improved destinations related to physical accessibility, infrastructure, transportation, facilities, information.

The adoption of digitalization, such as smart urban planning, better data management for residents and visitors, waste management and development innovation, is an important driver of tourism recovery. Digitization also allows human resources upgrading low-skill jobs to higher-skill jobs.

Attendees discussed how to make businesses resilient through digitization, as well as issues and challenges posed during implementation.

The discussion session "Women's Empowerment - The Center for the Tourism Restoration” recorded the speakers' opinions on key issues affecting women's participation in tourism. The main ideas focused on the key factors of advantages, challenges and specific measures. Experts agree that women make up the majority of the tourism workforce and are often concentrated in low-skilled or informal jobs with little access to social protection. Women are underrepresented in management and leadership. It's time to redefine the gender balance in this industry.

In addition, the discussion session on Enhancing human resources -Enhancing industry resilience, examined the issues of labor shortage and low-skilled labor; propose mitigation strategies to increase competitiveness and survival of tourism business.

Accordingly, human resources play a central role in the tourism industry and will remain so. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a shortage of human resources in the tourism industry, including high-quality human resources. Many workers return to work with outdated skills. Human resources in the tourism industry must be enhanced and retrained to cope with modern working methods. Smart work, e-commerce, data analytics, e-learning are just some of the examples that are now becoming a prerequisite for tourism businesses.

Closing the forum, Minister of Tourism of Cambodia highly appreciated the opinions of leaders, leaders of GMS countries’ delegations, international organizations, experts and tourism businesses.

Minister emphasized that the Mekong Tourism Forum 2023 under the theme “Rethinking for Resilience and Digitalization” is to discover opportunities to enhance the tourism sector’s resilience through building sustainable food systems, fostering women empowerment, accelerating digitalization, and upskilling the tourism workforce.

The forum has addressed the common interests and concerns over the livelihoods, job and skill creations of millions of people impacted by the global pandemic and discussed ways to rethink post Covid-19 tourism’s recovery strategies and initiatives within the GMS Member countries as a collective and dynamic sub-region.

The forum actively discussed the tourism recovery issues and trends with local and international tourism experts such as: the developing local food production networks and supply chains with a focus on safety and hygiene, while the “Smart Tourism Destination, Human Resource Advancing, and Gender Equity in Tourism” play their roles in pioneering for the resilient.

Within the framework of the forum, a ceremony took place to transfer the flag to host the Mekong Tourism Forum 2024 to China.

Tourism Information Technology Center