The Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia will host the 2023 Mekong Tourism Forum on April 25-27 in Preah Sihanouk province to address the theme “Rethinking for Resilience and Digitalisation.”

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, which co-organises the forum, said in a February 27 press release that tourism ministers, tourism leaders, NGOs and private sector representatives will discuss ways to rethink post-Covid-19 tourism in China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam as a collective and dynamic sub-region.

The conference programme has been designed to address job creation, gender equality, food safety and hygiene, digital transformation and a more geographically dispersed tourism approach, so that the benefits of the travel industry spread beyond over-touristed hotspots.

“Tourism experts and political leaders will address five key ideas on 26 April: rethinking tourism to put people and planet first, developing local food production networks with a focus on safety and hygiene – while reducing food waste, using digital technology to boost tourism start-ups and small- and medium-sized businesses, improving training so that tourism workers have the skills to adapt and advancing equality of opportunity and fair treatment for women in the private and public sectors of tourism,” said the release.

Tourism minister Thong Khon said that the post-Covid- 19 tourism landscape will provides clear opportunities all sides to take stock and rethink tourism for the better

“Along with my tourism colleagues from around the Greater Mekong sub-region, we will work hard to ensure that tourism re-establishes itself as an engine to create sustainable prosperity for our citizens. The forum’s agenda has a clear focus and will address those issues,” he said.

According to the tentative agenda, the challenges of improving local food networks – to enhance safety and hygiene – will be addressed by Luu Meng, a legend in the Cambodian culinary scene.

A panel on smart tourism and digitalisation will be moderated by Ben-Jie Lim, group head of delivery, SuperApp, AirAsia.

A panel debate on advancing human capital will be led by Peter Semone, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, who will also keynote the forum.

Veronica Mendizabal Jaffre of the Asian Development Bank will lead the panel session on women’s empowerment in tourism in the region.

As Preah Sihanouk province is the host destination, on 27 April delegates will have the opportunity to join many local excursions and tours, including destinations like Sihanoukville and Koh Rong Island.

They will also enjoy diverse activities like diving, mangrove tours, kayaking, and community-based ecotourism exploration. Each of these will showcase sustainable tourism practices, said the press release.

The forum will also host a sustainable tourism exhibit comprising over 20 exhibitors, showcasing responsible and sustainable tourism, community-based tourism and local community products. The exhibition will run on April 25-26.

An estimated 150 international delegates are expected to attend the forum.