Mekong Food Tourism Seminar: Introduction
Speaker: Jens Thraenhart – Executive Director, Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO)
Countries around the Mekong are offering some of the most fragrant cuisines of the world. Over the years, gastronomy is turning into a serious activity. As governments recognize cooking as a national cultural asset, national dishes have been promoted in each GMS country. But it also fostered a new mindset in the private sector: talented chefs are offering specialties in high class restaurants, cooking courses are offered to travellers and programs are also in places earmarking national dishes or restaurants proposing a choice of national dishes.
Thailand has been so far the most advanced. Bangkok but also Chiang Mai or Phuket offer culinary courses with Thai chefs and have a vibrant restaurant scene. Many DMCs propose also culinary courses or food tasting in local and ethnic communities, particularly in mountainous areas of Northern Thailand.
Cambodia is also promoting its local food. They are many restaurants and cooking schools in Phnom Penh and most particularly in Siem Reap linked to education programs for kids. Travellers not only can taste and learn cooking but they also contribute to finance education programs for impoverished children.
Laos is also providing gastronomy tourism packages, particularly in Luang Prabang as well as in Vientiane where NGOs and schools operate restaurants for visitors.
In Myanmar, Inle Lake communities are developing gastronomy tours with agriculture farms settled over the lake. It is possible to taste local cuisine and provide an income to local farmers.
Vietnam is turning increasingly sophisticated in its gastronomy. Vietnamese cuisine is well known for its fragrant and healthy food using fresh ingredients. Cooking courses are proposed in many hotels but also by private restaurants and NGOs. They are also gastronomy tours looking at the various Vietnamese specialties.
This session will give highlights of the initial Mekong Food Tourism White Paper and will give a summary of the Food Tourism Marketing Workshop at MTF 2015.