Dr. Bosengkham Vongdara, Minister, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism in Lao PDR, describes preparations for the ASEAN Tourism Forum which takes place 17-24 January 2013 and elaborates on how Laos’ tourism can capitalise on ASEAN integration
5. Should the message for ASEAN tourists be different for tourists outside the region — say in Japan, Middle East or Europe?
AEC has focused everyone’s mind on what ASEAN is, so there is increased understanding within ASEAN countries about which countries are in the grouping and what their destination strengths are and what their human resource strengths and weaknesses are. ASEAN is becoming more like a united family grouping. However, because ASEAN is so diverse we need to look at clever and exciting ways to promote niche activities such as dining, community tourism, shopping, UNESCO heritage tours, honeymoons, incentives and ecotourism.
6. The ten destinations of ASEAN are very diverse. To what extent is that a help or a hindrance when promoting ASEAN as a destination?
Let a million flowers bloom. Variety is good in tourism as in life. ASEAN benefits from its amazing diversity, cultural heritage and warmth of its people.
7. Can ASEAN promote niche activities such as adventure, experiential, business and long stay — as well as mass tourism? How?
Yes, easily. One of the strengths of diversity is that ASEAN has something for everyone. Whatever niche activity you like, you can do it here. And if you want to be driven around in a group tour bus from one main attraction to another you can do that too.
8. What needs to be done to make the ASEAN tourism region more user-friendly for investors?
I think economic growth is pretty much guaranteed. But that alone is not enough. Of course we need more transparency and accountability if we are to deliver a return on investment for investors. Singapore has set the best example within ASEAN.
9. In your view, what are the key sales and promotional points that ASEAN should be promoting to tourists in ASEAN and beyond?
I would say exciting multi-country trips. Our food. Our heritage sites. And great shopping bargains. These are my favourite things.
10. What are the main challenges for the tourism sector in ASEAN ahead of AEC 2015?
Human Resource Development because tourism is growing so quickly. The challenge is producing enough talented people to service the growth.
11. How does the tourism industry in Laos feel about the advent of AEC 2015?
We are in favour of it. If it is good for ASEAN, it is good for Laos.
12. Where do the priorities for ASEAN tourism integration lie — with the private sector or government sector?
We have to walk hand in hand. To maximise returns on investment, the public and private sectors have to be working as one team.
13. Laos is big on ecotourism. Is ecotourism synonymous with budget travel? Why?
No, you can have ecotourism at any price point — budget to luxury. The uniting feature is a love of Mother Nature. And we have some beautiful National Protected Areas, waterfalls, rivers, caves, mountains and wildlife in Laos. As an eco tourism destination, Laos is hard to beat.
Source = ASEAN Tourism Marketing Working Group