Tourism boosts income for people of Luang Namtha

Enterprising folk in Luang Namtha province have put together an assortment of tourism services in their local communities with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The initiative aims to supplement local people’s income and foster sustainable tourism.
ADB provided a grant of US$10 million from 2009-14 for the Great Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Sustainable Tourism Development Project, which took place in nine provinces in Laos.
Communities living along roads in Champassak, Saravan, Savannakhet, Vientiane, Huaphan, Oudomxay, Xayaboury, Bokeo, and Luang Namtha provinces were given training in tourism services under the project.
Before this, the Mekong Tourism Development Project was rolled out from 2002-08, followed by the GMS Sustainable Tourism Development Project from 2009-14. Currently, the GMS Tourism Infrastructure for Inclusive Growth Project is taking place from 2014-19. 
In Luang Namtha, the project improved the airport and a village of 109 families was moved to a new site that had piped water, road access, electricity, and land. The local community was trained to develop and manage tourism products such as trekking tours, home- stays, and cave tours.
The project also helped improve the Luang Namtha night market and facilities at Nam Dee waterfall and Nam Eng cave, and the development of silk products and cotton textiles in Pieng Ngam village.
Mr Tom Chang, a resident of Viengneua Tai village who went from being a farmer to a tour guide, said the project taught people to use their trekking skills to take tourists into rainforests to observe wildlife, and learn about medicinal plants and local customs and culture.
Following the project’s implementation, people can now earn more money by providing services to visitors, whose number has continued to increase each year.
Mr Tom said his tourism-related work had increased his income by about 34 million kip a year, compared to nine years ago when he only earned a small amount by selling rice.
“I work as a farmer in the rainy season and a guide in the dry season from November to May, when tourists from Europe come here to learn about our ethnic groups and their culture and go trekking in the jungle,” he said.
Every morning, Mr Tom and the other guides prepare food and drinks for the tourists who book tours of their local area. They travel about one kilometre, carrying materials and food on their shoulders, before heading into the jungle.
The guides often stop to let the tourists watch the wildlife and later arrange a lunch in the shade of a big tree.
“Tourists find that these activities are greatly enjoyable and some vow they will return,” Mr Tom said with a smile.
Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Ounthuang Khaophanh, said recently that authorities had enhanced numerous tourist sites and infrastructure around the country in 2017.
They had also improved facilities, trained guides and promoted tourism via television, radio, newspapers and social media. 
Some provinces have received awards such as the Asean clean tourism standard and Asean homestay standard.
But more can be done to develop infrastructure and improve services to further bolster tourism. To attract more visitors during Visit Laos Year, the authorities should continue to improve standards and increase activities and facilities for tourists.



By Times Reporters
(Latest Update March 17, 2018

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