Interview with Inthy Deuansavan, Head of Green Discovery Tour Operator and Inthira Hotels
How is Laos tourism progressing those days?
Inthy Deuansavan- It does not grow as quickly as it used to be five years ago. I suppose that this slowdown is due to a softer demand from European countries, of which many are now in recession. But they are also other factors. First of all, I think that Myanmar is turning for now into a highly competitive destination. It is new, it is exciting. So many people are then turning into visiting Myanmar instead of Laos. Another factor has more to do with our own way to promote ourselves. We really lack proper communication. Just look at the way we appear at ITB in Berlin. Laos has a very small booth, almost hidden from the public or the professionals. And this is not only in Berlin. We obviously lack visibility.
What could then be done to reshape communication?
I.D.- Communication has to be done differently and the Laotian government must think seriously about the country’s tourism image. I agree that this is not easy as Laos lacks all of the emblematic sites or areas which generally would help it to be easily identified by travellers. We do not have Angkor Wat, Phuket beaches or even the memories linked to an event like the Vietnam War. To my opinion, the best attractions of Laos are first of all its people, then its culture and its landscapes. The gentleness and simplicity of Laotians, the tranquility of our landscapes or our rural scenery is a strong selling point. Lots of tourists I meet who have been to Laos explain that this was their best Asian experience and one of the most beautiful memories.
You are talking about simplicity. How do you evaluate Laos slogan “Simply Beautiful”?
I.D.- Simply Beautiful: I love that slogan because this sounds so true. But now it needs to be better described and explained. We cannot just throw to people’s face a slogan and then sit down and wait for them to come. Unfortunately, we lack a strong campaign as very little is financially invested to promote Laos on the international stage.
How would you personally promote the country?
I.D.- What I want to focus on– and this is already what I do with my company Green Discovery Tour- is nature and eco-tourism. We have thousand of unexplored natural spots in this country with an authentic genuine Asian experience. Laos is just the greatest place in Southeast Asia to offer travellers a sustainable responsible concept of travelling differently. This is what I strongly promote those days. Destinations which have a great future in this sense are the province of Khammouane as it has anything, from rock climbing to beautiful caves, jungles or old colonial architecture like in Thakek. Champassak in Southern Laos for activities centered around the Mekong River. The 4,000 islands, spectacular waterfalls, the UNESCO world heritage site of Wat Phu, Bolaven plateau and its coffee plantations are very attractive locations to visit there.
What are the most promising incoming markets?
I.D.- Laos is more popular for Europeans than Asians. I believe this is a question of travel education. Probably Europeans are more used to integrate the “adventure” concept into their holiday. Not necessarily adventure tourism but this is just the ability to enjoy a place where ever you are. Europeans are in this sense very curious and adventurous. In Asia, Japanese are interested. Thai come of course in large number to Laos due to the proximity. However, their interest is still rather limited in terms of activities. This is the same for the Chinese. They generally are just in transit in Laos on their way to Thailand when coming from Yunnan. We see more Malaysians due to the opening of flights by AirAsia as well as a burgeoning market from South Korea.
You also own Inthira Hotels, a chain of boutique hotels with a colonial twist. Any expansion plans?
I.D.- We are currently looking at opening a resort on the 4,000 Islands in Southern Laos. And we are still looking to have a property in Vientiane. Nothing concrete for now as Vientiane is a rather crowded market where real estate prices are going up rapidly. But we are still committed to be in our capital!
Source: Luc Citrinot / traveldailynews.asia