CAPE TOWN, 1 April 2021: Start-up Destination Marketing Organisation, Samco, which builds business links between South Africa and the Mekong Region, attracted a turnout of more than 200 travel and wine experts at last night’s official launch party in Cape Town. (Report updated at 12 noon 1 April.)
Samco, or South Africa and the Mekong Collaborative Office, says it gained inspiration from the Mekong Tourism Coordination Office’s success story over the last decade. It plans to headhunt a CEO from the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) to ensure the DMO hits the headlines of travel trade journals worldwide.
But for now, silence on the identity of Samco’s first CEO and director-general until the ink dries on the contract signing. During the lavish party, Samco’s founding directors claimed they would create a one-off 34-day ocean cruise from Cape Town to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam via the romantic holiday islands of the Maldives and Sri Lanka once Covid-19 travel restrictions lift. Passengers on the cruise of a lifetime would then transfer to a Mekong River cruise boat sailing upstream as far as Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The long-term objective is to open tourism and trading opportunities, possibly developing vineyards to grow South Africa’s red Petit Verdot grapes on the hillsides around the southern Lao town of Pakse, famous for its coffee plantations. Drawing more South African tourists to Mekong River countries to explore the majestic river and bringing investors to the region is at the heart of the Samco business plan.
“But we are learning tough lessons from Covid-19,” a Samco director admitted. “We may have to wait for countries to reopen, and we need to look further afield to engage in upstream Mekong destinations. Once we have our executive team in place, we can further tourism growth through sea and river cruises while planting new ventures such as vineyards and wineries, a first for the Mekong River region.”
Ultimately the river cruises focusing on Vietnam’s river delta and Cambodia will go further north to Pakse, diverting around the formidable barrier of the Khone Falls a series of waterfalls and rapids near the Lao- Cambodian border. Samco will deploy wind-powered canal lock navigation to circumvent the rapids. Then it’s smooth sailing to the Lao capital Vientiane and Luang Prabang a World Heritage riverside town in northern Laos. There are also plans to collaborate with tourism consultants based in Luang Prabang to explore opportunities that will use high-speed rail travel to Kunming in China due to roll through Laos at the end of this year.
In the meantime, contract talks have reached a crucial point on hiring a Mekong region expert to head the Samco venture, and cloud funding is underway to nourish the flow of winery investments.
Editor’s Note: Contributions were welcomed until 12 noon 1 April.
(Source: Lirpa Loof Media, Cape Town)