Supporting ecotourism in East Asia

03 July 2012 | Article

IUCN and Kuoni organised another training workshop on “Integrating business skills into ecotourism operations” successfully, this time in Lao PDR with participants and experts from the region.

As part of the “Business skills transfer for ecotourism development” Programme, IUCN and Kuoni organised a training workshop in Lao PDR with 30 participants coming from Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. The workshop took place from 4 to 8 June and aimed to support the conservation community to develop successful ecotourism through transfer of skills, knowledge and experience.

Instructors for the workshop came from a number of businesses associated with Asian Trails, Kuoni’s subsidiary in Asia. With their knowledge of the tourism sector they were able to provide practical advice on the different areas of business development. The training covered 7 themes: (i) Understanding your market and product; (ii) Business and Financial Planning; (iii) Sustainable Operations; (iv) Health & Safety; (v) Human Resources; (vi) Marketing & Sales and (vii) Customer service.

To complement the 2.5 days in the “classroom”, a field trip was organised in and around Vang Vieng, Lao PDR with guided visits and interactive discussions to three ecotourism/sustainable tourism businesses – the Silver Naga Hotel, the Kang Nyui Waterfall (developed as a tourism site by the Na Duang village) and the Vang Vieng Organic Farm. The three businesses offer very different products and services and cater to different target markets. Whilst Silver Naga caters for international tourists wishing to enjoy the beauty of Vang Vieng with comfort, the Na Duang village offers basic accommodation close to nature and allows tourists to experience Lao culture, the Vang Vieng Farm offers a learning opportunity for day visitors but also for volunteers and researchers looking for more active holidays. The field trip and the discussions with these businesses helped reflect on the lessons learnt in the classroom from the first two days.

The workshop also served to celebrate the launch of the textbook for “Integrating business skills into ecotourism operations” which is targeted at conservation organisations that are developing ecotourism businesses and aims to provide them with an introduction to the business skills required to manage such businesses as market viable and effective tools for conservation.

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