Ecohost from Vietnam has beaten 110 other entrants to take the second place at the 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) challenge, where a Laotian startup snatched the first prize, the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office announced on Friday.
The elite travel startup competition, supported by the Australian Government and Asian Development Bank (ADB), includes Asia’s most prominent travel-specialized venture capitalists among its advisors.
Vietnamese startup Ecohost claimed MIST’s second prize and received a US$5,000 grant.
Ecohost facilitates quality tourism experiences in the Vietnamese countryside, working with rural communities to develop tours and activities while improving the capacity of local homestays to serve international guests.
Bui Thi Nhan, the founder of Ecohost, said that she was inspired to create the travel firm in order to address the shortcomings of homestay services and develop a strong homestay community after she realized that homestays in Vietnam generally fall behind standards.
The winner taking MIST’s top prize that comes with a $10,000 innovation grant was BambooLao from Luang Prabang, Laos.
BambooLao is on a mission to eliminate single-use plastics from hotels and resorts across Asia.
They have produced more than 80,000 reusable bamboo straws and other bamboo utensils, using indigenous bamboo varieties and a proprietary natural treatment process.
Their straws are used by several world-class hotel chains and travel tour operators.
BambooLao estimates their environmentally-friendly products have displaced the use of five million single-use plastic straws.
MIST is an initiative with an aim to support innovative new travel and tourism-related ventures in the developing destinations and source markets of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
It is run jointly by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO), which represents the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Tourism Working Group (TWG), and Mekong Business Initiative (MBI), which is facilitated by ADB with the support of the Australian Government.
MIST currently mentors new ventures, provides support and guidance, and matches them with suitable investors.