Text by Bernie Rosenbloom
Published first at WeAreLao
The guide features 16 hotels with modern event venues and facilities, and who see MICE potential in Laos. ITB delegates can get a copy and more information at Hall 26 B, Stand 215, or download the .pdf version below.
“Laos is a relatively new player in the MICE industry compared to neighbouring countries like Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam,” said Pullman Luang Prabang General Manager Denis Dupart. “Laos can be seen as a boutique alternative to these countries.”
He explained, “This means we can provide experiences that are much harder to find in the more established markets, such as highly-personalized services as well as unique locations and activities.”
Luang Prabang View General Manager John Morris Williams agreed. “Laos has huge potential as a MICE destination, but it has yet to be tapped, as it is still seen as a new destination in the eyes of many overseas travel agents.”
Mr Williams, who is also the Managing Director of We Are Lao, added, “Laos is ‘The Last Frontier’, a new destination that can attract more MICE if we can open doors and break down barriers. The magic of Laos is its green and sustainable environment that offers unrivalled culture, history, and sincerely hospitable people.”
Seven of the 16 Lao MICE venues are located in Luang Prabang, including Chitchareun Moung Luang Hotel, The Grand Luang Prabang Hotel & Resort, Le Palais Juliana, Sanakeo Boutique Luang Prabang, and Santi Resort & Spa.
“MICE demand will increase in the future as Luang Prabang is still one of the best destinations in Asia,” said Luang Prabang Travel Agent Association Vice President Kongchakky Phanthasombath.
Currently Luang Prabang is mostly targeting regional markets as it welcomes direct flights from Bangkok, Hanoi, Singapore, and four Chinese cities: Kunming, Jinghong, Chengdu, and Hainan. Several other Asia-Pacific and European markets are just one stop away.
However, neighbouring Oudomxay province relies on other means of access, while giving Lao MICE a different twist.
“The Mekong River is still our main route,” said Ket Thipphachanh, Managing Director of Le Grand Pakbeng Resort and Visit Asia Travel. “By 2021, the Lao-China high speed train will stop 140km away, which will boost traffic in this area.”
Pakbeng is mostly known as an overnight stop on the two-day voyage between Chiang Rai and Luang Prabang, but the “Mekong Oasis” continues to create tour activities such as The Khmu Trail and Mekong Elephant Park to encourage longer stays.
Muang Xay, also in Oudomxay and a stop on the railway or a 200-km drive from Luang Prabang, is home to Nam Kat Yorla Pa Resort, which offers some 30 incentive packages including zip-lining, tree house accommodation, and ATV excursions in nature.
While MICE are taking a bigger bite out of northern Laos, their Vientiane base is also growing. The Crowne Plaza and Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel recently joined the venerable Lao Plaza and longstanding Don Chan Palace in the capital as high-capacity MICE venues.
“Vientiane capital is a great destination for MICE as it combines the conveniences of modern infrastructure, such as the recently extended airport, a variety of hotels at different levels, and a number of experienced ground-handlers and DMCs that offer authentic experiences that only Laos has to offer in this part of the world,” said Crowne Plaza General Manager Oliver Horne.
He added that the city has successfully hosted a number of ASEAN and multi-national events.
MICE are also nibbling away in Vientiane Province. The Inthira Vang Vieng offers meeting space matched by a range in incentive offerings in nature. MICE have also found a home at the lakeside Sanctuary Nam Ngum Beach Resort, just a short drive from the capital.
Southern Laos has plenty to offer MICE, as it continues hunting for its market and remains relatively undiscovered. “The key to success is how to approach the right target audience with the right way of communication,” said Champasak Grand Hotel Manager Korlarp Kaewthai. “A strong southern Laos MICE community could help impact our approach to reach that target.”
“Pakse already has four MICE-ready hotels and a newly built event hall in town,” said Dyan Barutzki, Marketing Advisor at Swiss Contact Laos, noting the destination is “still largely undiscovered by international companies.”
She added, “Although we might have MICE-ready facilities already, the secret is not yet out.”
Mr Williams concluded, “There are opportunities up and down the country for group and MICE travellers to explore. And as in any developing market, MICE brings in fast revenue to bolster the economy. If we work together to create unity between the private and public sectors, including with airlines, DMCs, hotels, and tourism offices, success will follow.”
The German Development Cooperation (GIZ) supported the publishing of “The MICE Guide to Laos”.
Visit Hall 26 B, Stand 215 at ITB Berlin for a copy of the guide and to learn more about Mice in Laos, or download a copy here.