Mekong startups win cash awards

LUANG PRABANG, 13 July 2017: GoP a travel app startup company serving domestic travellers in Myanmar walked away with the USD10,000 prize at the inaugural MIST awards presentation during the Mekong Tourism Forum last week.

GoP works like a typical travel agency by working with tour operators, hotels tour providers, restaurants and transport operators to offer vacations to Myanmar’s family market. It won the MIST Startup Accelerator Award that comes with a USD10,000 cash prize.

The Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) Accelerator Programme’s final pitch and awards presentations were key highlights of this year’s Mekong Tourism Forum, held in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Credit MIST

Twelve startups from the Mekong Region pitched for prizes during the final round held one day ahead of the tourism forum.

Making its first appearance at the MTF, MIST is a joint venture of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and Mekong Business Initiative under the Asian Development Bank.

MIST helps promising startups in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam, but the wider MBI programme also supports innovative projects elsewhere in Southeast Asia (ASEAN).  Overall, 24 startups made it to the final round when entries from the Asia-Pacific region were included.

“Innovation and technologies are transforming the world’s tourism sector, but the Mekong region has lagged behind. We are eager to see the region’s startups innovate and create new avenues for tourism growth,” said ADB senior economist for Vietnam, Dominic Mellor. He is also the head of the Mekong Business Initiative at ADB, which is funding the initiative together with the Government of Australia.

GoP won top MIST Startup Accelerator Award, but three runners up were awarded cash prizes of USD7,000 each under the category Tourism Innovator Grand Awards.

Runners up

Artisan Origins by TAEC, which offers high-quality handicrafts from ethnic communities in Lao PDR, and operates a café and information centre in Luang Prabang.

Credit MIST

CamboTicket, in Cambodia, which aggregates more than 40 bus, ferry and private taxi bookings around Cambodia and Lao PDR on a single platform.

Chameleon City, Vietnam, is an on-demand, chat-based service that provides travel and lifestyle answers from local experts.

Wise Moves

A Wise Moves Leadership Award was presented to Vietnam’s I Love Asia, which offers women-led motorbike tours of Hoi An and Hue, and supports projects for disadvantaged communities.

Impact Awards

In addition, MBI’s Social Impact Award was given to Malaysia’s LokaLocal.

LokaLocal is operated by tour registered travel firms, Loka Travel and NB Travel. It connects travellers with local communities to explore food and cultures and allows local experts to share a culture, places or traditions and earn from it.

Also under the MBI programme Best in Show Awards were presented to Adventure Bucket List Canada,  reservations system for tour operators in the adventure travel niche market and TakeMetour, Thailand.

TakeMeTour Thailand offers the services of 12,000 guides. It specialises in one-day tours of sights, attractions led by a ‘local expert’ who offer 600 tours in over 47 destinations across Thailand.

The 12 MIST startup finalists included technology-driven enterprises that offer on-demand travel services and those that offer low-impact, environment- and community-friendly tours. They were chosen based on profitability of their business plans and how they will create jobs, help local communities, and support sustainable tourism.

MIST finalists from the Mekong

Artisan Origins by TAEC – Lao PDR – Artisan Origins offers authentic, high quality crafts from rural ethnic communities in Lao PDR, a café and information center about visiting handicraft communities, and displays about the ethnic groups, cultural context and techniques demonstrated through the crafts. Learn more…

Bayo – Vietnam – Bayo’s mission is to help Vietnamese make the best travel decisions by helping them find the right travel information, right suppliers, right products and prices, and to transact with local suppliers easily. Learn more…

BookMeBus – Cambodia – BookMeBus connects travelers and bus operators in real time, helping bus companies fill their seats and users find the most cost-effective ways to easily get around the region. Learn more…

CamboTicket – Cambodia – CamboTicket aggregates bus, ferry and private taxi bookings around Cambodia and Laos into one platform, creating an even playing field for over 40 operators. Learn more…

Chameleon City – Vietnam – Chameleon City is an on-demand chat-based service providing travel and lifestyle answers from local experts, 24/7.

Di Choi Chung – Vietnam – Dichung uses technology to promote rideshare and group accommodations deals for young independent travelers in Vietnam. Learn more…

ezStay – Myanmar – ezStay offers hotel reviews and instant booking confirmation, including for hotels and guesthouses without an online presence, broadening and simplifying accommodation bookings for travelers in Myanmar. Learn more…

GoP – Myanmar – GoP is an online tour platform amassing providers and options into one place, offering high-quality service, reliable bookings and instant confirmation. Learn more…

GuideInsider – Cambodia – GuideInsider offers comprehensive in-country guidance on local sights and activities, including history, opening times, available tour guides, possible tour packages and user reviews.

I Love Asia – Vietnam – I Love Asia offers women-led motorbike tours of Hoi An and Hue while supporting projects for disadvantaged communities in the cities where they operate.

Ma Te Sai – Lao PDR – Ma Te Sai preserves cultural heritages while developing skills and offering employment options for youth in Nambak through tourism to unique TaiLue villages via a multipurpose information center and roadside café. Learn more…

Morning Rooms – Vietnam – Morning Rooms is Vietnam’s largest budget hotel network, helping economical tourists find the right quality rooms for the price they need. Learn more…