The NZ – Lao Tourism Support Project is doing precisely that in Luang Namtha, Xieng Khouang and along The Loop (Bolikhamxay and Khammouane).

Improving facilities for visitors is now underway in all these places including new directional signs and place names for over 200 locations. 

Knowing the customer

In research conducted between April and July 2016 over 600 international visitors were surveyed to find out more about their satisfaction, length of stay, travel pattern, places visited, use of information and how much they spent. What they liked and didn’t like about their experience also came through in the study.

In terms of economic impact, it was found that visitors spent between US$150 and US$180 per trip to these destinations, staying on average between 2 and 3 nights in each. Despite low levels of satisfaction with the facilities available in the destinations surveyed, it was encouraging that close to 75% of visitors said that they would still recommend these places to friends and family. This is useful information and a good incentive to increase visitor satisfaction.

The key take out was that these visitors seemed happy with their overall experience but felt that accommodation providers, food outlets, the attractions and other services could lift their game. The scenery in these destinations and the experience of meeting local people were rated highly.

Working together

Because tourism is such a complex industry, best results can be achieved when government, community and the private sector work closely together.

Destination Management Networks have been set up in each of these provinces made up of private sector, community and government players. Destination Management Plans have been prepared to help guide joint actions that will improve the destinations. It is still early days. Stakeholders are communicating more regularly with each other and that’s a good sign.

Over the next few years a number of collaborative actions will take place including improved destination marketing, collection and sharing of tourist statistics, infrastructure development, restoration of heritage sites and provision of information for visitors.