Vietnamese startup travel company Ecohost beat 110 competitors to take second prize in the 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) challenge.The elite travel startup competition, supported by the Australian Government and Asian Development Bank, includes 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.
“The MIST innovation grant will enable us todeliver skills training courses across three villages and upgrading homestays for 15 families,” saidEcohost CEO BùiThịNhàn.
Ecohost came in second to BambooLao from Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. 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 Aman Group, Pullman, Rosewood Group, and Sofitel properties, as well as EXO Travel tours. BambooLao estimates their environmentally-friendly products have displaced the use of 5 million single-use plastic straws.
MIST supports high-growth-potential emerging market startups in travel and hospitality – especially startups that generate positive impacts for communities, culture, and the environment. The program’s five 2018 finalists refined their business acumen and pitching skills during MIST’s weeklong business fundamentals bootcamp, five months of customized coaching by industry experts, and MIST pitch competitions in Ho Chi Minh City, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, and ITB-Asia’sMekong Travel Startup Forum in Singapore.
“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 Jens Thraenhart, co-organizer of MIST and executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.