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Local startup second in regional competition

Released at: 18:57, 23/10/2018

Local startup second in regional competition

A homestay experience in Vietnam associated by Ecohost. Photo: Ecohost

Ecohost runner-up at 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) competition.

by Le Diem

Vietnamese travel startup Ecohost was runner-up in the 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) competition, beating 110 competitors in the February to October competition organized with support from the Australian Government and the Asian Development Bank.

Ecohost enables quality tourism experiences in Vietnam’s countryside, working village-by-village to develop tours and activities while improving the capacity of rural homestays to serve international guests. Founder Ms. Bui Thi Nhan said that she was inspired to create the travel startup in order to address shortcomings in homestay services and develop a strong homestay community after she realized they generally fall short of standards. “It’s not just about the homestay,” she said. “There needs to be products developed for guests to do in the area as well, such as cooking, family activities, or learning about the local culture.”

Ecohost was second behind BambooLao from Luang Prabang in Laos, which is on a mission to eliminate single-use plastics from hotels and resorts across Asia. It has produced more than 80,000 reusable bamboo straws and other bamboo utensils, using indigenous bamboo varieties and a proprietary natural treatment process.

With the $5,000 innovation grant from MIST’s second prize, Ecohost will deliver skills training in three villages and upgrade homestays for 15 families, according to Ms. Nhan.

“BambooLao, Ecohost, and other MIST finalists demonstrate how the Mekong region’s bright, innovative entrepreneurs are finding practical solutions to solve industry problems, while striving to make tourism more inclusive and sustainable,” said Mr. Jens Thraenhart, co-organizer of MIST and Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.

MIST is an initiative aimed at supporting innovative startups in travel tech, hospitality, and tourism, and includes Asia’s most prominent travel-specialized venture capitalists among its advisors and startups that generate positive impacts for communities, culture, and the environment in the developing destinations and source markets of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. MIST aims to expedite tourism industry growth, create an ecosystem that inspires innovation, and promote sustainability in tourism.

The program’s five 2018 finalists refined their business acumen and pitching skills during MIST’s week-long business fundamentals bootcamp, five months of customized coaching from industry experts, and MIST pitch competitions in Ho Chi Minh City and Nakhon Phanom in Thailand, and ITB-Asia’s Mekong Travel Startup Forum in Singapore.

The MIST Market Access Program, in its second year in 2018, is open to small and medium-sized international tourism, hospitality, and travel tech companies that want assistance expanding into Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Other participants hail from Australia, Canada, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and the US.

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