Industry Update
Press Release 5 January 2021

Mekong Tourism Forum postponed to September 2021

Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism decide to postpone the regional flagship tourism conference to end of 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic

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Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO)

The member governments of the Greater Mekong Subregion agreed at the recent 46th GMS Tourism Working Group Meeting on December 3rd, 2020 to postpone the Mekong Tourism Forum in Bagan, Myanmar. The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) has been working closely with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar to plan the annual flagship tourism conference in the Greater Mekong subregion. The forum has been postponed three times so far, originally planned to be hosted on April 28-29, 2020, then August 25-26, 2020, and then February 25-26, 2021. The reasoning is based on current travel restrictions amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the low likelihood that conference delegates would be comfortable in a closed meeting venue with over 300 people. There is obviously a possibility that the September 2021 date will also not happen, and the governments will convene again virtually at the 47th GMS Tourism Working Group Meeting to discuss the issue.

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Myanmar will continue to host the forum in Bagan essentially to promote its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site a designation that was awarded in July 2019. The theme will still be "Achieving Balanced Tourism", with a focus on rebuilding tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

The MTCO executive director, Jens Thraenhart said: "The theme 'Achieving Balanced Tourism' is more relevant than ever, because we have a big opportunity to reset tourism and become more sustainable by embracing innovative models such as 'Doughnut Economics', and leveraging regional collaboration by creating travel bubbles to accelerate tourism recovery."

Bagan is an important and iconic destination in the Greater Mekong Subregion, so we decided to have the first physical post Covid-19 Mekong Tourism Forum to be in the UNESCO World Heritage town. The annual Mekong Tourism Forum is hosted by the GMS member countries via a rotational plan, which will shift forward by one year accordingly. Originally, Viet Nam was scheduled to be the host of the Mekong Tourism Forum 2021, but is now moved back after Myanmar has hosted the annual flagship event.

Mr. Hla Myint, Director of the International and Regional Cooperation Department of the Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar commented: "We are extremely proud to host the first Mekong Tourism Forum post the Covid-19 pandemic. This will be an important tourism event not only for Myanmar, but for the entire Greater Mekong Subregion, and even ASEAN, as the event will set strategies and collaborations for rebuilding tourism in the region in the most sustainable way. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Bagan, located in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar, dates back to the 9th centuries, and its pagodas have survived the changing times. There could be not a more perfect venue to define the future of tourism in the Greater Mekong subregion."

More information will be available shortly via www.MekongTourismForum.org and www.MekongTourism.org.

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