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Former Lonely Planet Author argues for the protection of wildlife and children to preserve the authenticity of the Mekong Region

June 15, 2016 Responsible Tourism No Comments Email Email

The Mekong Region offers a vast range of authentic experiences, many of which may involve children or animals, both of which are especially vulnerable to potential exploitation in the tourist industry. ensure our encounters with these groups remain inspiring and mutually beneficial for generations to come, we in the industry bear a special responsibility for helping to protect children and wildlife.

To shed light on these issues, award-winning travel writer and ex-Lonely Planet author of 25 years, Joe Cummings will lead an expert panel comprised of WWF and Anantara, as well as Aple Cambodia and Friends International.

Having explored the Mekong Region for the past four decades, Mr. Cummings has witnessed the change the region has undergone, resulting in both positive and negative impacts.  He said: “Although regional advances in both human and animal rights have been made over the years, the job is never finished, and new challenges continually arise.”

Protecting the cultural heritage of the region, including children and wildlife sometimes gets forgotten in the midst of frantic development, which in some ways may alleviate poverty and bring progress, while on the other hand may destroy some of the assets that make the region unique and create authentic experiences – which in return bring tourism money to the GMS.  Once travelers no longer perceive these assets as authentic and unique, tourism numbers may decline, resulting in severe economic issues.

Dr. Ashley Brooks of the Tigers Alive Initiative at WWF, based in Cambodia and Mr. John Roberts of the Elephant Camp at the Anantara Resort & Spa in Chiang Rai, Thailand will discuss the sector’s role in protecting wildlife, while Mr. James Sutherland of social enterprise Friends International and Mr Seila Samlaeng of NGO Aple Cambodia will cover tourism’s responsibility to protect children.

Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) said: “While the Greater Mekong Subregion is blessed with a wealth of travel experiences, we need to constantly remind ourselves that mismanagement of tourism development may create an imbalance which in effect can destroy the very reason travelers choose to experience the Mekong Region as a tourist destination. This important session is to make sure we all work together to be responsible travel professionals as well as conscious travelers.”

The 2016 Mekong Tourism Forum will be hosted by the Cambodia Ministry of Tourism (MoT) at the Sokha Beach Resort Sihanoukville on the beautiful Southern Coast of Cambodia from July 5 to July 7.  More information, and the most updated agenda, is accessible at As always, MTF strives to be as sustainable an event as possible, and is looking to move from printed brochures to a mobile app; please follow the app download link from the website.

In order to make it easy for even small- and medium-sized businesses to stay engaged, for the third time in a row, the 2016 Mekong Tourism Forum is free to attend for the first 150 qualified industry professionals, sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia.

Please be sure to register online at to secure one of the 150 free seats.

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