A Buddhist temple in Myanmar

Mekong Tourism Incubator to Support 10 Innovative Startups

The Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) announced the 10 companies it will support in 2018. The two-year-old program identifies and supports high-growth travel and hospitality businesses that have potential to contribute positively to local communities, economies, and the environment. It is supported by the Asian Development Bank, the Government of Australia, and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.

MIST has a Startup Accelerator Program and a Market Access Program.

The Startup Accelerator teaches business fundamentals to early-stage travel and hospitality startups. It also connects them with industry experts and investors. The program is open to businesses based in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, or Viet Nam.

The five companies chosen to enter the program are: 

  • BambooLao (Lao PDR) produces reusable bamboo straws to replace single-use plastic straws.
  • Ecohost (Viet Nam) enhances the local homestay experience by improving the management of homestays and local activities and making them easier to book.
  • Go Explore (Viet Nam) organizes “workation” programs for international and domestic remote workers.
  • Sidesbag (Cambodia) is a mobile application that enables airline passengers to purchase available luggage allowance from fellow travelers.
  • VDEs (Viet Nam) connects event planners with event venues and allows them to book a venue through their database.

The Startup Accelerator finalists are attending the Mekong Tourism Forum 2018 in Nakhom Phanom, Thailand where they will showcase their business and explore industry partnerships. They will reconvene in October during the travel trade show ITB Asia in Singapore to pitch their business to investors and compete for innovation grants of up to $10,000.

The Market Access Program invites travel companies from around the world to solve tourism and hospitality industry challenges in the Greater Mekong Subregion. The program helps them overcome market-entry obstacles, form local partnerships, and secure financing for proof-of-concept pilots.

MIST selected the following five travel and hospitality innovators to join the program:

  • Adventoro offers “bucket list” worthy activities, including whitewater rafting, jungle treks, and diving excursions. Currently serving Malaysia, Adventoro will use the MIST Market Access Program to enter Viet Nam.
  • DidaTravel Technology, based in the People’s Republic of China, offers backend technology for hotel bookings, providing real-time inventory and rates.
  • hereO, creator of the heroO GPS watch for kids, offers plug-and-play Internet of Things (IoT) technology. It is considering IoT solutions for last-mile tourist transportation in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
  • Moneybay provides a digital cross-border currency exchange platform. The Malaysian fintech makes it simple for tourists to make payments online.  
  • Monkey Theory creates fun experiences with branded sporting events, promoting public health and social activities.

“MIST has received more than 350 applications from all over the world, demonstrating the Greater Mekong Subregion’s dynamism as a destination and its attractiveness to innovators. We are excited to see how these technologies and business models will transform an already fast-growing industry,” said Dominic Mellor, a senior investment specialist at the Asian Development Bank.

“There is no doubt that technology is rapidly transforming travel. The trick is to harness and accelerate innovative business models that also positively transform lives, communities, and the natural environment,” said Jens Thraenhart, executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.

The Greater Mekong Subregion is one of the world’s fastest growing markets for tourism. The subregion, which groups together the six countries that share the Mekong River, boasts of destinations that are rich in history, culture, and natural beauty.