Tag Archives: ecotourism

Simple, Natural, Innovative As BambooLao Straws Slurp Up Tourism Award

Luang Prabang’s very own BambooLao has captured the top prize and a US$10,000 Innovation Grant in the 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) challenge, which is described as “an elite travel startup competition, supported by the Australian Government and Asian Development Bank, (including) Asia’s most prominent travel-specialized venture capitalists among its advisors.

“BambooLao is on a mission to eliminate single-use plastics from hotels and resorts across Asia. They have produced more than 80,000 reusable bamboo straws and other bamboo utensils, using indigenous bamboo varieties and a proprietary natural treatment process.

“Their straws are used by Aman Group, Pullman, Rosewood Group, and Sofitel properties, as well as EXO Travel tours. BambooLao estimates their environmentally-friendly products have displaced the use of 5 million single-use plastic straws.”

MIST’s top prize comes with a USD10,000 innovation grant.



Winner of MIST’s 2018 Startup Accelerator, Laos’ Luang Prabang’s BambooLao.

“The MIST innovation grant will help us scale–up production from one to three villages. We must invest in capacity to meet growing international demand,” said BambooLao founder Arounothay Khoungkhakoune was reported as saying.

Bamboo Straws Production
Bamboo straw production a community process.

Vietnamese startup Ecohost reportedly captured MIST’s second prize and received a USD5,000 grant. Ecohost facilitates quality tourism experiences in the Vietnamese countryside, working with rural communities to develop tours and activities while improving the capacity of local homestays to serve international guests.

“BambooLao, Ecohost, and other MIST finalists demonstrate how the Mekong region’s bright, innovative entrepreneurs are finding practical solutions to solve industry problems while striving to make tourism more inclusive and sustainable,” said Jens Thraenhart, co-organizer of MIST and executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.

According to the organisation, “MIST supports high-growth-potential emerging market startups in travel and hospitality, particularly startups that generate positive impacts for communities, culture, and the environment. The program’s five 2018 finalists refined their business acumen and pitching skills during MIST’s weeklong business fundamentals boot camp, five months of customized coaching by industry experts, and MIST pitch competitions in Ho Chi Minh City, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, and ITB-Asia’s Mekong Travel Startup Forum in Singapore.”


Laos, Mekong habitat hotspot aid helps communities, climate, conservation

Human lives and habitats intertwine

With a habitat range boasting more biodiversity per square metre than the mighty Amazon basin, the arc where mountains meet the plains via the Mekong and other major river valleys form the Indo-Burma hotspot that includes Laos is well known as an area of immense natural and ecological value that is nevertheless under increased threat from degradation as populations and demands grow and the climate changes.

Efforts to protect, preserve and nurture wildlife habitat and the landscapes as well as the communities that live nearby have been given a boost via a 4-year project to support conservation activities centered on six high biodiversity landscapes in Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Encompassing some 14 protected areas in total regionwide, the Financing Agreement for the conservation of biodiversity and green growth in the Indo-Burma hotspot is co-financed by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The hotspots in Laos subject to the agreement include Phou Sithone (Bolihamxay), Nam Gnouang (Bolikhamxay) and Nam et Phou Louey (Houapanh LPB and Xieng Khuang). 

The three parties inked an agreement in Vientiane Wednesday for joint implementation by local authorities of each country, the private sector and WCS teams on the ground.

The project will focus on 5 key components and follows a first 4-year phase (2014-2018) and aims at strengthening the achievements, extending geographical coverage and developing integrated management models for landscapes.

Components include (i) an integrated landscape management approach, (ii) development of community-led enterprises that value the conservation of biodiversity, (iii) Improvement of commercial practices for green growth, (iv) promotion of the application of environmental, social and governance safeguard standards, and (v) communication and experience-sharing.

‘Climate and Biodiversity are global common goods. Tackling climate change and preserving biodiversity are top priorities for France,’ Her Excellency Ms Florence Jeanblanc-Risler, Ambassador of France to the Lao PDR told the gathering for the signing of the agreement in Vientiane attended by Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Mr Khambounnath Xayanone and Director-General of Department of Forestry, Mr Susath Xayakhoummaane and representatives of the embassies of Myanmar and Cambodia to Laos.

“This project will directly address the strategies identified in Laos’ National Biodiversity and Action Plan that aims to enhance the role of biodiversity as a national heritage and as a substantial contributor to poverty alleviation, as well as sustainable and resilient economic growth,’ Dr Santi Saypanya, WCS Lao PDR Deputy Director said.

He said WCS has been present in the countries of Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia for over 20 years.

This project ‘fits very well within the National Biodiversity Strategies of each country, and setting up public-private partnerships to finance the protection of biodiversity is a sustainable mechanism to be modeled for ensuring inclusive local economic development’, Mr. Matthieu Bommier, Head of AFD Vientiane Office, told the gathering.

‘Lessons emerging from WCS’s regional program show that responding to large-scale drivers of deforestation in high biodiversity landscapes requires solutions that integrate action across multiple scales with engagement of local communities, government, business sector developers, and financial investors.

“These drivers of deforestation, which are local, national and international in scope and scale, continue to exert severe and growing pressure on protected areas and local livelihoods in these high biodiversity landscapes, and demand sustained and coordinated action at multiple scales to address them,’ he said.

This presence forms the backbone of the WCS Greater Mekong priority region, providing the most advanced WCS regional program in terms of addressing major cross-cutting threats to biodiversity conservation and human welfare.

WCS has multi-year MoUs with the governments of Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia enabling a smooth and collaborative continuation of activities from the previous phase.

A video highlighting ongoing efforts including the popular tourist-friendly Nam Nern Night Safari at Nam Et Phou Louey Protected Area in Huaphan province was also screened at the signing.

Ecotourism Investment in Savannakhet Promotes Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction

Savannakhet Ecotourism and Investment

Lao PDR’s development has been rapid during the last decade, largely funded by income from natural resources driving the bulk of economic growth. The Government is promoting responsible investment across the country to ensure that quality investments benefit all of Lao society, fostering green development and sustainable use of natural resources, in accordance with the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan.

The Government of Lao PDR declared this year “Visit Laos Year 2018” to increase the country’s profile as a tourist destination. Contributing to these efforts, Savannakhet Province held a Responsible Business Forum to promote investment in ecotourism and corporate social responsibility in the tourism service sector. The meeting was held in Xonnabouly District, Savannakhet, based on the potential of the Ong Mang Sanctuary and other sites in the vicinity of Kaysone Phomvihane City.  It was attended by many private sector representatives and entrepreneurs as well as government representatives from Savannakhet Province, line ministries, and departments.

Recognizing the importance of private sector investment and community engagement for sustainable development, Vice Governor of Savannakhet, H.E. Mr. Thonkeo Phouttakayyalath, highlighted “the importance of building the capacity of rural communities for tourism development and improvement of livelihoods to achieve sustainable natural resource management”.

UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Mr. Balasubramaniam Murali further remarked that “ecotourism has the potential to greatly enhance the provincial economy, as well as change the lives of many within rural areas like Xonnabouly District”.

Delegates at the Responsible Business Forum in Savannakhet. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR

Delegates at the Responsible Business Forum in Savannakhet. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR

Ecotourism provides local communities with new sources of income and opportunities for development. It also incentivizes the private sector to take better care of the environment as many tourists are willing to pay extra to visit attractions that are maintained and conserved sustainably.

Prior to the dialogue meeting, delegates tried out an ecotourism circuit from Kaysone Phomvihane City, visiting Nam Sui Reservoir, Dong Ling (Monkey Forest) and the Ong Mang Ecosystems Conservation Centre. The delegates engaged with the Village Conservation Team from Ban Sanamxay who highlighted the successes and challenges of community-based conservation in ecotourism. This ecotourism trail will be further developed and promoted to tourists visiting Savannakhet province in collaboration with private tour operators.

The Responsible Business Forum was organized by the Savannakhet Department of Planning and Investment in collaboration with the SAFE Ecosystems Project, implemented by the Department of Forest in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and supported by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility.


For more information on investment please contact:

Mr. Valiya Sichanthongthip
Director Department of Planning and Investment, Savannakhet Province

Email s_valiya@hotmail.com
+856 20 59693232


Mr. Keokolakoth Chanthavisai,

National Project Manager, Sustainable Forest and Land Management in the Dry Dipterocarp Forest Ecosystem of Southern Lao PDR Project

Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Vientiane, Lao PDR

Email keo.korakoth@hotmail.com

Tel: +856 20 599 149 55


Dr. Margaret Jones Williams
Head of Natural Resources Management and Climate Change,

Tel: +856 21 267 710


Photos: UNDP, Phoonsab Thevongsa