Jens Thraenhart, Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, Bangkok, Thailand
Jens Thraenhart has over 25 years of international travel, tourism, and hospitality experience. In 1999, he founded Chameleon Strategies, an Affiliate Member of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), advising tourism organizations and travel businesses in leveraging digital engagement to drive sustainability. Previously, he co-founded leading China to travel marketing agency Dragon Trail and headed up the marketing strategy and digital departments at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Canadian Tourism Commission, and Dusit International.
He was appointed by the tourism ministries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, PR China, Thailand, and Viet Nam to head the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) as its Executive Director in 2014 and has since spearheaded various award-winning initiatives.
Mr. Thraenhart has been recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Travel and Hospitality. An MBA graduate of Cornell University, he is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Tourism at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
There are troubled times. The COVID virus has cracked the foundations of our industry. When planning for a future for our industry when this crisis fades, it is important to do so within the context of long-term planning on tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion, which includes Cambodia, Yunnan and Guangxi in China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Regional Tourism and Economic Cooperation frameworks, such as GMS and ASEAN can be a solution for tourism recovery. Countries have invested resources over the past decades to built and foster these collaborations. Now is the time to harvest the fruits of hard labor.
1. Supporting small businesses (Experience Mekong Collection). Support SMEs and entrepreneurs within local tourism sectors and make sure that they are not forgotten. Innovation in tourism often comes from creative individuals who open new niches in travel expectations, put new destinations on the experience map, and create new demand. This week, we are very excited as we will open public voting of the 2020 Experience Mekong Collection Showcases, featuring the most innovative small responsible businesses in the region.
2. Leveraging our powerful campaign platform Mekong Moments (By planning social media tourism recovery campaign). We have been speaking to a small group of Travel companies in the region to launch a campaign to inspire people to dream about experiences in the Greater Mekong Subregion and travel tomorrow, aligned to the initiative of the UNWTO. We are also working on a platform called Mekong Deals to facilitate the sale of discounted nonrefundable vouchers to get money in the pockets of businesses to help them survive. This campaign will be completely collaborative, and any organization can participate.
3. Recognizing and inspiring industry, we have launched the new Mekong Heroes program; and we have been starting to share videos from the Mekong Mini Movie Festival campaign to inspire people all over the world.
4. Valuing innovation, we are opening nominations for the Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism program MIST in two categories, social enterprises, and travel technology ventures. Not sure yet if a physical event or if we will do an online pitching competition. We have a separate MIST Advisory Board call, and anybody passionate about helping innovation and startups in the region is invited to join.
5. We are looking at how to proceed with our Mekong Tourism Forum, scheduled to be in Bagan end of August, hosted by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar. Very likely, the Mekong Tourism Forum in BAGAN will be postponed to May 2021.