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New regional platform to develop tourism companies

Tourists relax at a beach on Cambodia's southern coast.
Tourists relax at a beach on Cambodia's southern coast. Moeun Nhean

New regional platform to develop tourism companies

The Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) will launch a new platform next month aimed at developing startups in the tourism sector throughout the CLMV region, which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, a program organiser said yesterday.

MBI, a program launched by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and funded by the Australian government, has developed the Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) platform, which will launch this month with an initial budget of $200,000, said Ros Khemara, MBI country manager for Cambodia.

With tourism identified as a key growth sector for CLMV economies, the MIST platform will look to boost private-sector-led innovation.

“We will start by identifying the challenges and the product opportunities in those tourism markets,” Khemara said. “After we’ve identified the challenges, we will call out to innovators to help come up with a solution to those challenges or to come up with a new product to capture the market potential.”

The MIST project will run for about six months and will seek to create partnerships between local entrepreneurs or startups and experienced innovators in the industry from across the world. The project will culminate in an event in Luang Prabang where selected startups will get the opportunity to pitch their products to potential investors.

“We will work directly with local entrepreneur associations to find people whose ideas address those challenges that we have identified,” he said. “We will incubate 10 of them in each market and then we will select the top three or four from those markets to attend the competition to compete for prize money and expose their products to investors.”

Besides potential financial funding, the project aims to provide an opportunity for local tourism entrepreneurs to gain expertise and experience, Khemara said. It will also provide a platform for existing tourism ventures to learn from and adopt profitable businesses strategies with regional track records.

“We will incubate them to adapt the new technologies and products to the local market,” he said, adding: “We will try to help them to make sure that the products or technology will work in the market that we are addressing.”

He added that the MIST model could eventually be applied to other markets including the financial and agricultural sectors by pairing initiatives with outside investors.

Cambodia received 5 million foreign tourists last year, generating $3 billion in revenue.

By the end of 2016, there were 647 hotels, 1,996 guesthouses, 1,844 restaurants, 588 tourist agencies and 5,088 guides registered in the Kingdom, according to Ministry of Tourism figures.

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