Destination Mekong moves to Phnom Penh

BANGKOK, 27 October 2021: Destination Mekong is raising its game with the appointment of three senior executives, effective 1 November, while establishing its operational head office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The privately funded marketing affiliate of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office confirms it has hired its first-ever CEO, Catherine Germier-Hamel, who will be based at a new operational head office in the Cambodian capital.

She will be joined by Gavin Bell, appointed chief development officer who is resident in Phnom Penh. Destination Mekong also named Jens Uwe Parkitny as chief strategy officer who will work out Myanmar.

The three appointments mark a major expansion for Destination Mekong,  founded by the MTCO executive director, Jens Thraenhart, as a marketing services provider for the Mekong region. Most of the MTCO’s initiatives have been outsourced to Destination Mekong since it was founded in 2017.

The three new senior executives join DM’s commercial marketing officer, Gerrit Kruger, who has been the ‘face’ of the marketing agency since it was founded. He is also a director of Chameleon Strategies along with founder Jens Thraenhart.

Up until now, Germier-Hamel worked as a sustainable tourism development and marketing consultant based in Seoul, South Korea.

Bell, a British citizen, based in Phnom Penh, has vast experience working with governments and international organisations on sustainable tourism initiatives.

Parkitny, a  former vice president of digital marketing and distribution for the Asia Pacific at Accor Asia Pacific, Singapore, is a well-known tourism executive who currently co-owns Loikaw Lodge by the Lake and was before that managing director at Shwe Property in Myanmar.

In related news, Destination Mekong will establish an operational head office in Phnom Penh under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism which is providing office space, and two to three staff seconded to the office to provide support. Up until now, Destination Mekong adopted a ‘nomad’ business model operating virtually without the need for a permanent operational office. However, it had access to the MTCO office through founder Jens Thraenhart. 

In an online interview, Thraenhart said he would conclude requirements to incorporate Destination Mekong in Singapore as a legal entity sometime in November.

“We went with Singapore to incorporate Destination Mekong, but the operational office in Phnom Penh is ready with MoT staff, and both Catherine and Gavin will be based there.”

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office continues to have an office in Thailand under the stewardship of Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports.  It provides office space and support at the Department of Tourism.

Oversight of the MTCO, funded by six Mekong region countries, ( Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) comes under the Greater Mekong Subregion Tourism Working Group that is now tasked with appointing a new executive director. Thraenhart takes on a new challenge as CEO of Barbados Tourism Inc, effective 1 November.

The six countries initiated a selection process back in July that resulted in a shortlist of recently interviewed candidates. It is understood that the GMS Tourism Working Group will make a decision on Thraenhart’s replacement this week following a virtual meeting held on Monday.

About Destination Mekong

Destination Mekong (DM) is the regional destination marketing organisation and is owned and funded by the private sector of the travel and tourism industry in the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion.

DM initiates various programmes aligned to the strategic framework published by the six-member tourism ministries via its secretariat, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.

Endorsed by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, Destination Mekong is a public-private partnership, led by UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies, that initiates and operates regional projects building capacity and fostering healthy and sustainable communities.


  1. Endorsed by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (led by Thraenhart), Destination Mekong is a public-private partnership [with] Chameleon Strategies (owned by Thraenhart) … I’m glad it’s all out in the open now and there’s nothing to see. Good luck to all involved!


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