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Vietnamese travel startup wins $7k grant from int’l tourism accelerator

An on-demand chat-based service providing around the clock answers from local experts to travel and lifestyle questions was the only Vietnamese entry to win one of the top prizes from the MIST tourism accelerator.

MIST, which stands for Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism, is an initiative that works to give startups in the Mekong Delta region a launch-pad to achieve profitability, create jobs and impact local communities.

MIST announced the recipients of four 2017 Mekong Business Initiative Innovation Grants on Tuesday.

Vietnam’s Chameleon City and Cambodia’s Camboticket, both travel startups, as well as Artisan Origins by TAEC, a social enterprise from Laos, each received US$7,000 worth of grants.

Chameleon City provides users with answers from local experts to travel and lifestyle questions through a chat-based service available 24/7.

Artisan Origins offers authentic, high quality crafts from rural ethnic communities in Laos, while CamboTicket aggregates bus, ferry and private taxi bookings around Cambodia and Laos on one platform.

GoP, another travel startup from Myanmar, took home the top prize, which included a grant of US$10,000.

The online tourism platform aggregates tour operators and options into one place, offering a high-quality service, reliable bookings and instant confirmation.

In the meantime, Vietnamese entrepreneurs Nguyen Thi Huong Lien and Nguyen Thi Thu from I Love Asia Tours, as well as Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh from Morning Rooms were also honored with the WISE Women’s Leadership Awards.

They will benefit from mentorship through Vietnam’s Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE) as they launch their respective startups.

I Love Asia offers female-led motorbike tours of Hoi An and Hue while supporting projects for disadvantaged communities in the cities they operate.

Morning Rooms is Vietnam’s largest budget hotel network, helping low-budget tourists find the quality rooms at a price they can afford.

“MIST is unique in that it integrates the Greater Mekong region’s travel startups into an ecosystem for sustainable tourism development,” said Jens Thraenhart, executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and organizer of the Mekong Tourism Forum.

“The entrepreneurs I’ve met through MIST have convinced me that tourism in our region has a very bright future.”

MIST began in December 2016 as a joint venture between the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, the Government of Australia, and the Asian Development Bank-supported Mekong Business Initiative.

It includes a Startup Accelerator for early-stage startups from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, and a Market Access Program for mature startups based anywhere in the world that want MIST’s assistance localizing proven tourism products and solutions into the Greater Mekong region.

More than 250 applications for the accelerator program were submitted to MIST.

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