The Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) have announced that three innovative tourism startups from the Lao PDR have qualified for the Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) Startup Accelerator program.

More than 250 travel tech and traditional tourism startups applied to the MIST program. The Travel Startups Incubator, based in the United States, screened applications based on their potential for investment and the quality of their business plans. MBI experts performed additional due diligence, considering sustainability and other socio-economic criteria.

Qualifying startups will advance to a MIST Startup Accelerator bootcamp May 5-7, 2017 in Siem Reap, Cambodia alongside 17 innovative tourism startups from Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. Market experts including Deputy Director of TMG Cong Nguyen, Investment Director of Gobi Ventures Victor Chua and Founder of Hai Ho will mentor startups at the bootcamp.

Qualifiers from the Lao PDR include:

Artisan Origins by TAEC offers authentic, high quality crafts from rural ethnic communities in Laos. It also includes a café and information center about handicraft communities.

Ma Te Sai preserves cultural heritage while developing skills and offering employment options for youth in Nambak. It includes a multipurpose information center and roadside café.

Passa Paa is a design and print studio in Luang Prabang creating and selling innovative Hmong-inspired textiles that promote traditional textile culture with a modern appeal.

“MIST promotes sustainable tourism, giving innovative startups the potential to transform travel in one of the most dynamic regions on earth”, said Jens Threanhart, executive director of MTCO.

Dominic Mellor, head of the MBI, added, “We’re proud of this batch of startups. They are fueling the right kind of tourism growth that positively impacts the tourism experience and local communities”.

Approximately half of all Startup Accelerator finalists, selected by mentors, will advance from the bootcamp to an investor showcase at the Mekong Tourism Forum in Luang Prabang on June 6, 2017. There, startups will present their business plans to media, investors and an expert judging panel. Ultimately, four will receive innovation grants of $7,000-$10,000 USD.