MIST announces tourism innovation grant winners hinh anh 1Foreign tourists visit Cai Rang floating market in the Mekong Delta province of Can Tho. (Photo: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) - The tourism accelerator Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) has announced the recipients of four 2017 Mekong Business Initiative Innovation Grants.

Accordingly, GoP, a travel tech startup from Myanmar, took the top prize and received10,000 USD. Artisan Origins by TAEC, a social enterprise from Laos, as well as Cambodia’s Camboticket and Vietnam’s Chameleon City, three travel tech startups, received 7,000 USD each.

Nguyen Thi Huong Lien and Nguyen Thi Thu from I Love Asia Tour and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh from Morning Rooms were recognized with WISE Women’s Leadership Awards and will enjoy mentorship through Vietnam’s Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE).

The awards received enthusiastic applause from government officials, destination marketers and tourism industry leaders who gathered in Luang Prabang, Laos, for the Mekong Tourism Forum Gala Dinner.

“MIST is globally unique in how it integrates the Greater Mekong Subregion’s travel startups into an ecosystem for sustainable tourism development. The entrepreneurs I have met through MIST have convinced me that tourism in our region has a very bright future,” said Jens Thraenhart, executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and organizer of the Mekong Tourism Forum.

MIST began in December 2016 as a joint venture between the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and the Government of Australia and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) supported Mekong Business Initiative (MBI). It includes a Startup Accelerator for early-stage startups from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. It also includes a Market Access Program for mature startups based anywhere in the world that want MIST’s assistance localizing proven tourism products and solutions into the Greater Mekong Sub-region. MIST received more than 250 applications in 2017.

Dominic Mellor, senior ADB economist and head of the MBI, said: “Tourism is one vertical – along with agribusiness, financial, environmental, and smart city technology solutions – where the Mekong Business Initiative believes that entrepreneurs can have an outsized impact on the region’s economies. We believe that MIST has found some of the best and brightest tourism industry entrepreneurs, and we hope that the grant money they have received, the networks they have built, and the knowledge they have received through MIST will accelerate not only their own businesses but the Greater Mekong Sub-region’s economies as well.”

Four MIST Market Access Program participants also received awards at the Mekong Tourism Forum Gala Dinner. Adventure Bucket List from Canada and TakeMeTour from Thailand jointly won Best in Show. Malaysia’s BorderPass received the MIST Special Innovation Award, and Malaysia’s LokaLocal took top prize for Social Impact.

MIST’s organizers committed to continuing the program in 2018 and beyond, noting priorities for 2018 including establishing partnerships with other incubation and acceleration programs, involving investors in designing the next iteration of the program, welcoming new private sector partners and sponsors, and continuing to identify the region’s top travel startups. -VNA