mekong tourismThe Mekong Tourism Forum 2018 in Nakhon Phanom taking place June 26 to June 29 is likely to hit a new attendance record according to the latest numbers.

Registration figures earlier this week showed a total accounting of 370 registered delegates. Numbers are still temporary as it is expected that last minute delegates might directly come to Nakhon Phanom. Final numbers, including local participants, are expected to be over 450 attendees.

“We are thrilled by the expected attendance. We have been working hard with the Thailand Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), and the Provincial Government of Nakhon Phanom to make this year’s MTF a true success. We are encouraged that our new inclusive format for MTF, inaugurated last year in Luang Prabang, is gaining pace and traction,” told Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director for the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.

Temporary registration data show that officials represent 26.5% of all delegates followed by media and bloggers at 18%, academics and consultants with 14%, and start-up founders and entrepreneurs at 12.5%. Over 20% of the participants come from the tourism private sector (hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, transportation, and attractions).

“We want to make MTF a lively platform of exchange, discussions and this is why we called our MTF 2018 theme ‘Transforming Travel- Transforming Lives’. Under that theme, we also aim to redefine the way tourism should grow in the Greater Mekong Sub-region,” said Jens Thraenhart.

“We organize eight themed strategy workshops in rural communities around Nakhon Phanom, which will bring together villagers and tourism stakeholders to look at new ways to develop sustainable practices. Not to forget the important issue over waste. On the morning of June 28, we will have a special session titled ‘Mekong Opportunities and Threats- Plastic Pollution’. During this event we will launch the Plastic-Free Pledge social media campaign, hosted on MekongMoments.com,” added Thraenhart.

It is estimated that every man, woman, and child produces on average 136 kg of single-use plastic in this year alone and that by 2025, the plastic dumped into the oceans will be tenfold compared to today. Similar to last year, the Mekong Tourism Forum 2018 is banning all single-use plastic items from the event to raise awareness and to show the importance the Greater Mekong Subregion can make in creating sustainable travel and tourism practices. “By providing all delegates with a free kit including a refillable steel water bottle, bamboo straws and a locally hand-woven bag we reduce the impact the event makes on the environment by over 5,000 single-use plastic bottles, plastic lanyards and plastic bags,” said Mr. Thraenhart. Even delegate badges and lanyards, as well as the shirts delegates receive, are produced locally from natural materials.

Another important session will take place on Wednesday ,June 27, focusing on Buddhist Tourism, one of the fastest growing tourism segments in Asia, not only drawing international tourists into the GMS, and boosting domestic travel, but also contributes significantly to the local economies.

“Our aim is also to give an opportunity to secondary destinations to get more exposure. In the last years, MTF highlighted destinations such as Champassak and Luang Prabang in Laos, Sihanoukville in Cambodia, and Danang in Vietnam. Once again, we are delighted that the high attendance in Nakhon Phanom will give a superb opportunity for exposure to this Province, which offers so much in terms of superb landscaping, history, gastronomy, culture and ethnics. Nakhon Phanom epitomizes the way tourism in the Mekong region should develop,” said Jens Thraenhart.

The Mekong Tourism Forum 2018 is hosted from June 26 to 29, featuring side events including the Mekong Innovative Start-ups in Tourism, as well as the Mekong Mini Movie Festival. Nakhon Phanom will be the inaugural venue for the Mekong Mini Movie Festival followed by the first ASEAN Film and Destination Marketing Conference.