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Human Capital a “Strategic Pillar” of Mekong Tourism

Published on February 17, 2017

A knowledge-sharing session open to all ITB Berlin delegates will investigate the human capital development (HCD) challenges facing the travel & tourism industry through the lens of some of the success stories being written in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

For the travel & tourism industry to be responsible, sustainable, high-yielding, and inclusive of local communities, it must view human capital development and human resource development as “strategic pillars”, according to Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO).

“In the Mekong Tourism region we absolutely want all of those multiple-bottom-line outcomes,” Mr Thraenhart said. “But they are so much tougher to work towards when the industry’s demand for qualified and committed people far exceeds supply.”

Furthermore the tourism industry today requires a different kind of employee; someone with a “much broader creative mind-set”, according to Peter Semone, Managing Partner of consulting firm Destination Human Capital.

“Today, tourism is a multifaceted, technology-driven, competitive global industry,” Mr Semone explained. “As trends in tourism continue to move away from the mass to the more customised, employers are beginning to see the role of human resources in a very different light. Soft skills, problem solving, and technological competencies are becoming desirable attributes across all operational and managerial levels.”

When travel & tourism organisations find it difficult to employ experienced, qualified, or appropriately trained people, service quality can suffer, according to both Mr Semone and Mr Thraenhart. They assert that there is a strong correlation between higher levels of service quality and improved industry indicators, such as expenditure per trip and revenue per available room (RevPAR).

“The HR challenges in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) are no different than in other regions,” Mr Thraenhart said. “However, in dynamic fast-growing destinations, such as Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam, it is especially difficult to recruit sufficiently qualified and committed talent.”

Tourism is a driving force for socio-economic development in the GMS. While Southeast Asia is the fastest growing tourism region in the world, the GMS—Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam—is the fastest growing tourism region in Asia. This growth is expected to continue as is the pressure on human capital development.

Mr Thraenhart said: “Fortunately, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. At ITB Berlin this year we are keen to showcase some of the good HCD practices in the Mekong Tourism region.”

One example is ITC’s Inclusive Tourism project, which has “motivated tourism stakeholders, built skills, and facilitated partnerships at key strategic points along Myanmar-EU tourism supply chains,” according to Peter Richards, who will be a panelist during the session. “Practical training has included coaching Myanmar tour operators to participate effectively in travel fairs such as ITB.”

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) in partnership with Destination Human Capital is organising the first ever “mini” Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) at the annual ITB in Berlin. All are welcome to attend.

MTF@ITB Berlin 2017 will take place on Wednesday, March 8 from 15:30 – 16:45 in Messe Berlin Hall 4.1. Themed “Prosper with People” and moderated by Peter Semone, the session will explore how the tourism industry in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is tackling the challenges – and achieving success – in the crucial area of human resource/capital development.

MTF@ITB will be preceded by a Mekong Tourism Cocktail Reception sponsored by GIZ at 14:30 in Messe Berlin Room Weimar 3 (Meeting Bridge B / between Hall 4 and Hall 7).

The full Mekong Tourism Forum 2017 will take place June 6-8 in Luang Prabang, Laos. Themed “Prosper with Purpose”, MTF 2017 will investigate a range of pertinent industry issues via a series of “breakthrough” sessions hosted at multiple experiential venues in or around the UNESCO World Heritage town, or on or overlooking the mighty Mekong River.


MTF@ITB Berlin 2017
Wednesday, March 8

14.30 – 16:45 Mekong Tourism Cocktail Reception sponsored by GIZ in Room Weimar 3 (Meeting Bridge B / between Hall 4 and Hall 7)

Move to Hall 4.1 for MTF@ITB Berlin “Prosper with People”

15:30-15:35 Welcome and introduction of MTCO by Jens Thraenhart

15:35-15:45 Scene Setting and Defining Human Capital Development by Destination Human Capital’s Peter Semone — Objectives an introduction to the macro-level opportunities and challenges of developing human capital for emerging tourism economies with examples of approaches being used in GMS countries

15:45-16:00 Good Practice Projects in Destination Human Capital Development

  • GIZ Initiative for ASEAN Integration by Mr Hasso Anwer
  • ITC Inclusive Tourism Project in Kayah, Myanmar by Mr Peter Richards
  • Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality by Ms Maeve O’Brien

16:00-16:15 Panel One – Industry Challenges and Opportunities in Destination Human Capital Development

  • Industry representatives from Dream Hotel Group, PATA, Myanmar Tourism Federation, Namkat Yola Pa Resort Laos, Tiger Trail Laos, Bangkok Airways

16:15-16:30 Panel Two – Government Roles and Responsibilities in Destination Human Capital Development

  • GMS country representatives from Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Myanmar

16:30-16:40 Presentation of MTCO programs, including Mekong Moments, Mekong Responsible Tourism Guide, as well as pre-launch of the GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2026.

16:40-16:45 Closing, Group Photo, & Wrap-Up