New Intitiative Offers Boost to Mekong Region Travel Startups


A new initiative to catalyse tourism sector growth in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam has been launched at Echelon Vietnam 2016 in Ho Chi Minh City.

(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 this afternoon.

(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 at Echelon Viet Nam 2016.

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 Vietnam. MBI receives funding from the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Australia.

In Vietnam, 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 Da Nang 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 Da Nang 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 Subregion 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, Lao PDR.  The best Vietnamese startups will be further invited to a Demo Day at the APEC Investment Summit in November 2017 in Danang, Vietnam.

MTCO supports MIST as it is aligned with the GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2025‎, as well as the GMS Tourism Marketing Strategy 2015-2020, with the mandate to stimulate responsible tourism development to promote the GMS as a single tourism destination and drive inclusive growth to secondary destinations, supporting small and medium sized businesses.

For more information on MIST please contact Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the MTCO ( or Ms. Ngo Hong Diep, Viet Nam MBI Deputy Country Manager (

About the Da Nang Business Incubator (DNES) – DNES was established in early 2016 with a mission to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and startups in Da Nang city. DNES has developed robust programs to provide startup support services, incubate potential projects and increase access for startups to funding sources. For more information, please visit and follow us on social media @danangstartup

About the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) –  MBI is an advisory facility supported by the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Australia 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 angel investing, business incubation and technology commercialization. For more information, please visit, and follow us on facebook at mekongbusinessinitiative.

About SECO Entrepreneurship Program Vietnam (SECO EP) – A Swiss Government-funded program aiming to accelerate the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Vietnam. The Program focuses on “supply side” players including mentors, accelerators, incubators, and angel investors. For more information, please follow us on social media @SECOEPVietnam.

About the Seoul Global Startup Center – The Seoul Global Startup Center is an incubator program for startups, funded by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and operated by a private enterprise with 18 years of experience, Rehoboth Business Incubator. For more information, please visit

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Founded by two travel and technology professionals with years of experience in Asia, Representasia specialises in sales & marketing representation throughout Southeast Asia for travel/hospitality technology providers and travel-related startups, as well as providing marketing consultancy services for hotels and travel businesses in the region.

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