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Mekong region's boutique hotels raise the bar

Character and warm guest relations are key to success of small hoteliers

The charming interior of one of Rajabori Villas' wooden houses, set in a lush garden on the unspoiled riverine island of Koh Trong. (Photo by Kit Yeng Chan) 

SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- With its seemingly endless tropical summers, increasingly vibrant urban centers and relatively low living costs, the so-called Mekong region -- comprising Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam -- is drawing a rapidly growing share of Southeast Asian tourism.

The region, which tracks the mighty Mekong river, attracted just under 60 million visitors in 2017, up 13% from the previous year, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association's Annual Tourism Monitor 2018. Growth in visitor arrivals has driven a steady increase in tourist accommodation. But the region faces a serious challenge if it is to continue to grow without damaging its fundamental character, say hospitality industry veterans.

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