The Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) and Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) have announced the 18 tourism startups from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos who will participate in the upcoming Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) startup accelerator program. Assessed by US-based Travel Startups Incubator, applications were weighed against criteria such as potential for investment, business plan quality and strength, sustainability and other socio-economic criteria.
The Mekong region is a magnet for tourism, but has been slow to adopt the kinds of innovations and technologies driving and transforming tourism in other areas of the world. Through the startup accelerator, MTCO and the Asian Development Bank are hoping to develop an industry that is positioned for inclusive growth and capable of overcoming future challenges.
“The region will need to develop and innovate if it is to sustain today’s growth over the long term,” said Jen Thraenhart, Executive Director of the MTCO. “MIST promotes sustainable tourism, giving innovation startups potential to transform travel in one of the most dynamic regions on earth.”
The selected startups will advance to the MIST Startup Accelerator bootcamp from May 5-7, 2017 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which will be mentored by industry experts including Cong Nguyen, Deputy Director of TMG, Victor Chua, Investment Director of Gobi Ventures and Hai Ho, Founder of Triip.me.
Half of the startups will move forward from the bootcamp stage to an investor showcase at the Mekong Tourism Forum in Luang Prabang, Laos in June. There, startups will present their business plans to an expert judging panel, investors and the media. Four winning projects will be chosen to receive innovation grants of $7,000 to $10,000.
“We’re so proud of this batch of startups,” said Dominic Mellor, head of MBI. “They are fueling the right kind of tourism growth that positively impacts the tourism experience and local communities.”
Selected Cambodian Startups
- Bus5: Connects travelers and bus operators in real time, helping bus companies fill their seats and travelers move around the region cost effectively.
- CamboTicket: Aggregates bus, ferry and private taxi bookings around Cambodia and Laos into one platform, creating an even playing field for over 40 operators.
- GuideInsider: Offers comprehensive in-country guidance on local sights and activities, including history, opening times, available tour guides, possible tour packages and user reviews.
- Manoa: Connects tour providers on an integrated document manager, text messenger, rating system and digital invoicing platform to facilitate cross-border tourism collaboration across the region.
Selected Lao Startups
- Artisan Origins by TAEC: Offers authentic, high-quality crafts from rural ethnic communities in Laos. It also includes a café and information center about handicraft communities.
- Ma Te Sai: Preserves cultural heritage while developing skills and offering employment options for youth in Nambak. It includes a multipurpose information center and roadside café.
- Passa Paa: A design and print studio in Luang Prabang creating and selling innovative Hmong-inspired textiles that promote traditional textile culture with a modern appeal.
Selected Vietnamese Startups
- Bayo: Providing travelers with the right travel information, suppliers, products and prices and to transact with local suppliers easily.
- Chameleon City: An on-demand chat-based service providing travel and lifestyle answers from local experts, 24/7.
- Dichung: Promotes low-impact rideshare transportation options, giving drivers the chance to trade free seats in their vehicles and working with taxi companies to develop vanpools.
- Hue Free Walking Tour: Operates the first and only walking tour of Hue that also offers add-on historical tours and hands-on experiences for independent English-speaking travelers.
- I Love Asia: Offers women-led motorbike tours of Hoi An and Hue while supporting projects for disadvantaged communities in the cities in which they work.
- Innaway: Serves as a mediator between hotels and travelers, helping hotels maximize revenue and improve quality standards, and helping travelers to travel smarter with better assistance and support.
- Mimoza: Creates 3D virtual tours of top travel destinations, allowing potential and current tourists, travel providers and students to use virtual and augmented reality systems to learn about hotels, heritage sites, restaurants and more.
- Morning Rooms: Vietnam’s largest budget hotel network, assisting economical tourists to find the quality rooms at the price they need.
- Oneclicktogo: An all-in-one trip planning website offering flight and hotel booking, guide book recommendations and a review platform, working to create a powerful tech-based tourism ecosystem that brings Mekong tourism businesses to the global market.
- Tugo: A technology-based tour operator and travel community, striving to offer low-cost and reliable packages and tours around the world.
- Putaleng Legend: Will offer diverse ecotourism experiences, adventure trekking tours and authentic ethnic cultural tours through its sustainable ecolodge.