SINGAPORE (October 19, 2018) – Vietnamese startup travel company Ecohost beat out 110 competitors to take second prize in the 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) challenge. The elite travel startup competition receives support from the Australian Government and the Asian Development Bank and counts Asia’s most prominent travel-specialized venture capitalists among its advisors. MIST’s second prize comes with a $5,000 USD innovation grant.
Ecohost enables quality tourism experiences in the Vietnamese countryside, working village-by-village to develop tours and activities while improving the capacity of rural homestays to serve international guests.
“This grant will enable us to complete Phase One of our growth plan, delivering skills training courses across three villages and upgrading homestays for 15 families,” explained Ecohost CEO Bùi Thị Nhàn.
Ecohost came in second to BambooLao from Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. BambooLao is on a mission to eliminate single-use plastic straws from hotels and resorts across Asia. They have produced more than 80,000 reusable bamboo straws as well as other bamboo serving ware, using special breeds of bamboo and a proprietary natural treatment process. Their straws – which are in use in Aman Group, Pullman, Rosewood Group, and Sofitel properties, as well as on EXO Travel tours – have already displaced the use of more than 5,000,000 single-use plastic straws.
The two-year-old MIST program supports high-growth-potential emerging market startups in travel and hospitality – especially startups making a positive impact on communities, cultures, and the environment. The program’s five 2018 finalists completed a weeklong bootcamp on business fundamentals, received five months of coaching, and showcased their business models at four events: the MIST semi-finalist pitch competition in Ho Chi Minh City, June’s Mekong Tourism Forum (Nakhon Phanom, Thailand), a final investor pitch in Singapore, and the Mekong Travel Startup Forum at Singapore’s ITB-Asia travel trade fair.
“The Greater Mekong Subregion includes the fastest growing tourism destinations on Earth, which creates enormous economic opportunity even as it places the region’s travel industry under unprecedented pressure to innovate. MIST’s uniqueness in the global travel industry is underscored by its winners BambooLao and Ecohost. These entrepreneurs have risen to the challenge of innovating practical local solutions to real industry problems and needs,” said Jens Thraenhart, co-organizer of MIST and executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.
The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office administers MIST with the endorsement of the Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam national tourism organizations.