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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Luang Prabang May Offer Concession for Developing Pak Ou Caves Tourism Activities

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Luang Prabang authorities are assessing the possibility of offering a concession to a private company to develop tourism at Pak Ou caves.

The idea was discussed at a recent government meeting held at the Luang Prabang Information, Culture, and Tourism Department in the presence of Ms. Souaphone Khomthavong, the department’s head.

Similar to the management of Kuang Si waterfall, the Luang Prabang provincial government will lay out a system that will enable a private company to develop tourism-related activities, including boat tours, hiking, and visiting ethnic villages near the cave. This would also help generate employment for local guides.

The plans suggested by the private firm need to first be approved by provincial authorities before work begins on the project.

According to an officer with the Tourism Development Department in Luang Prabang, who spoke to Laotian Times anonymously, the private company will only develop the activities surrounding the caves, and work not within the premises which are entirely managed by the government.

However, a local tourism professional, who did not wish to be named, was unsure why a private company needs to be roped in for developing such a small area. He was wary of the place being overdeveloped and turned into a “mass tourism theme park type of place, similar to the Kuang Si and all the concrete that’s been poured there”.

He tells the Laotian Times, “My second concern would be for the entrance fees – is all the money that benefited the local community now going to be funneled to a private company? Will any of the money from the entrance fees still go to the local villages? Will they stop the local boatmen and put in their own private service?”

He also suggested that a fund could be created with a percentage of the entry fees going to social projects to solve some of the issues that there currently are at the caves (for example children begging for money).

“I hope that they take it seriously and do some much-needed repair work, in particular to the steps, toilets, etc. but at the same time do it in a good way to protect the atmosphere and charm of the place,” he adds.

To promote and protect such unique sites, the province will also launch 31 projects aimed at better facilitating visitors, protecting biodiversity, and improving human resources ahead of the anticipated Visit Laos Year 2024 campaign.

Overlooking the Mekong River, the Pak Ou caves are located a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride upstream from Luang Prabang, where locals and visitors can make merit with thousands of Buddha statues laid out within the area.

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