The Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) – which features a startup accelerator and a separate market access programme – will support 10 innovative travel and hospitality companies this year.
Launched two years ago, the innovation programme aims to identify and support high-growth travel and hospitality businesses that have potential to contribute positively to local communities, economies, and the environment. It is jointly supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian government and six-government Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MCTO).
Five local entrepreneurs from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam earned spots in the MIST Startup Accelerator programme, which teaches business fundamentals to early-stage travel and hospitality startups.
The five startups are: BambooLao (Laos), which produces reusable bamboo straws; Ecohost (Vietnam), which aims to improve local homestay management and activities; Go Explore (Vietnam), which organises “workation” programmes aimed at international and domestic remote workers; Sidesbag (Cambodia), which enables airline passengers to purchase luggage allowance from fellow travellers; and VDEs (Vietnam), which connects event planners with event venues.
The Startup Accelerator finalists will reconvene in October, concurrent with ITB Asia in Singapore, to compete for innovation grants up to US$10,000.
MIST has also selected five companies to join its Market Access programme, which invites innovators from around the world to solve tourism and hospitality industry challenges in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). The programme helps innovators clear market entry obstacles, form local partnerships and secure financing for proof-of-concept pilots.
The five companies chosen are: Adventoro, a bookable directory of bucket-list worthy activities including whitewater rafting, jungle treks and diving excursions; DidaTravel Technology, which offers backend technology for hotel booking, providing real-time inventory and rates; hereO, creator of the heroO GPS watch for kids, and offers plug-and-play IoT technology; Moneybay, which provides a digital cross-border currency exchange platform; and Monkey Theory, which offers branded sporting events.
“There is no doubt that technology is rapidly transforming travel. The trick is to harness and accelerate innovative business models that also positively transform lives, communities and the natural environment,” said Jens Thraenhart, executive director of MCTO.
“MIST has received more than 350 applications from all over the world, demonstrating the GMS’ dynamism as a destination and its attractiveness to innovators,” added Dominic Mellor, senior investment advisor for the ADB.