Magic of the Mekong

The annual Destination Mekong Summit continues to position and market the GMS (Greater Mekong Subregion) as an attractive, sustainable and inclusive tourism destination​

Event brief
Organised by Destination Mekong, the fourth edition of the Destination Mekong Summit was hosted at OCIC Sales Centre in Phnom Penh from December 6-7, 2023.

The two-day hybrid event gathering was held under the theme Mekong in Motion, Mekong Emotion(s), and saw almost 40 speakers deliver engaging sessions to more than 250 tourism players from across the Mekong region.

Hosted annually, the Summit aims to provide a platform for industry stakeholders, policymakers and investors to come together to exchange ideas and insights, while contributing to sustainably growing tourism in the region.

Event highlights
The dynamic agenda took in a series of panel discussions and interactive workshops covering a range of topics relevant to the region’s tourism landscape, as well as an evening networking reception, industry matchmaking breakfast and a post-summit fam trip.

Plenary panel sessions included destinations to watch in 2024, empowering tourism players with essential skills and standards, and how innovation and collaboration is key to achieving a zero-waste tourism future.

In addition, the future of agri-tourism, developing adventure and community-based eco-tourism, and championing the region as a creative and transformative tourism hub were topics on the agenda.

A series of hands-on workshops were also held exploring a range of topics, from protecting children and vulnerable communities, and digital transformation in tourism and hospitality, to simplifying sustainability and promoting Cambodia as a wellness destination.

Making its event debut was ‘Mekong Stories’, which saw a host of industry players take to the stage to share their inspirational tourism tales. These included François Schnoebelen, director of EHT Paul Dubrule; and Sokleap Ngon, CEO and cofounder of Smiling Gecko Cambodia.

The host venue was also filled with stalls selling local wares and food, providing a promotional platform for local businesses and startups.

The Summit ended with an optional fam trip to the coastal city of Sihanoukville, with visits to the recently-launched, community-based TONTONTON Plastic Impact Tour and an overnight stay at Song Saa Island.

Catherine Germier-Hamel, Destination Mekong CEO, said time – there were less than two months to organise the event – as well as resources and budget constraints were the main challenges.

“This forces us to be more creative because a lot of times when you have a full budget, you miss the boat. I think when you’re up against it, there’s this kind of tension that makes the event exciting and engaging.”

The tight budget and limited cash sponsors were compensated by finding Summit partners, who were able to donate venues, sponsor speakers and pay some transport costs. Germier-Hamel added that with the inability to pay speakers, she had to offer them an incentive, such as promoting their business on stage, while ensuring they add value to the audience.

“They can promote their business and project, but they always need to think about what they can offer to the audience; what value can they bring and which projects they can inspire, rather than just presenting and delivering,” she elaborated.

Another challenge was ensuring the Summit catered to the differing interests of attendees. “There are different needs and expectations, so what can be challenging is to really balance the interests of everybody because we want to create opportunities for participants but also for the speakers.”

Event Destination Mekong Summit
Organiser Destination Mekong
Venue OCIC Sales Centre, Phnom Penh
Date December 6-7, 2023
Attendance Around 250 delegates

Sponsored Post