Seeing the beautiful nature and working with the wonderful people of the region inspires me to be a better person.

Potjana Suansri, founder of Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute (CBT-I) is one of the true pioneers of community based tourism in Asia and the world. She has worked tirelessly, and practically, for over 30 years, towards greater local community participation and benefit from tourism. Her work, both as a thought leader and practical field worker started decades before ‘CBT’ and ‘local experiences’ gained mainstream support in public and private sectors. During this time, Potjana maintained an unwavering focus on learning by doing, and demonstrating how to drive tourism benefits to local communities. This work was conducted irrespective of funding trends and access to resources.

Now, Potjana works for the UN International Trade Center (ITC), continuing her work for the benefit of local communities, tourism businesses and tourists. As ever, she is a modest, generous person who is happy to work hard in the background and does not prioritize self-promotion. However, her true role as a pioneer, thought and action leader for local benefits in ASEAN tourism, paving the way for later government, private sector, academic and NGO programs is massive.

Without Potjana’s work, there is no doubt that our whole region would have far less knowledge about how to do CBT well. Potjana Suansri absolutely deserves recognition and appreciation as a true Mekong Hero.

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“Once you arrive at Keemala, it is the personal touch and bespoke experiences that really make a lasting impression for our guests,” she says. “From personalised villa host service to customised celebrations ranging from romantic date nights to engagements and weddings, private excursions, and cultural immersion experiences. For us, and our guests, it is these little touches that make all the difference.”


IHHVTC is part of the Inle Heritage Foundation, a not-for-profit organization working to preserve and enhance the culture of Inle Lake and the people who call it home. The Foundation began as just “Heritage House”, a stilt building in the middle of the lake used as a sanctuary for Burmese cats being reintroduced to the country.


Aung Kyaw Swar is the owner of A Little Eco Lodge, a small guesthouse on the outskirts of Nyaung Shwe. We are looking out on a field of a couple of acres where in a few months – and then only for several weeks – a hundred heads of sunflower will bloom. The sound of monks from the nearby monastery is receding into the distance.