The changing landscape of Mekong travel

CHIANG RAI, 24 August 2020: Covid-19 has changed the way we live and work dramatically, and travel may never return to what we were accustomed to for years to come, even when an effective vaccine becomes available says PATA Chiang Rai Chapter Jaffee Yee.

Well known for his travel books and website publishing, Yee describes the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism industry of Southeast Asia as a “tsunami a series of” small and big waves and every country is trying to fight it off when it hits their shores.”

Rice planting in Kengtung, Myanmar. Photo credit: Jaffee Y Yee.

But looking at the countries in the Mekong Region he says Thailand  Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia are all “doing relatively well in keeping Covid-19 outbreaks under control”, although Vietnam is currently battling a second wave mainly in the central province of Danang.

“(Overall) it will have a very positive impact on the safety perceptions when tourists plan to return to these countries after the borders open.”

However, he warns “cheap package tours are out, and independent travellers will replace group tourists” while travel bookings will shift from crowded indoor activities to open-air outdoor pursuits enjoyed by smaller groups.

“I believe outdoor adventure travel will be the flavour of the month and may last for quite a long time to come.” 

In his assessment of what will be the new normal, he warns tour operators they will need to revisit their travel offerings and content to provide unique and create experiences.

Yee presents pointers on the travel themes that are likely to gain our attention as we come to terms with Covid-19 and the long-term impacts the pandemic will bring to bear on the way we travel and spend our leisure time.


In the Mekong Region, we will see more travel content focused on nature and adventure activities as well as cruising on the Mekong River that meanders through the six Mekong countries (Cambodia, China, Laos Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam ) as well as the iconic Ayeyawady River in Myanmar.


Learning experiences focused on coffee and tea plantation tours, educational visits to organic farms for rice planting and an introduction to orchard and vegetable cultivation will be more popular.

Faith tourism

Yee believes that in the aftermath of the pandemic, many tourists will turn to meditation and visiting temples for their spiritual wellbeing.

Art and Heritage

More attention will be given to tours that explore art galleries, artists’ studios, museums, and ancient cultural heritage sites, particularly the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Mekong Region.

Yee concludes: “Given the possibility that Covid-19 may still linger around among us even when the pandemic has come under better control… the GMS* region certainly has the best options for safe post-pandemic travels and the offers are so diverse that there is always something to meet your taste and interest.”

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*Greater Mekong Sub-region countries: Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.


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