The ASEAN Ecotourism Forum 2016 took place in Pakse from June 22nd – June 25th. Organized by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of Lao PDR in collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The theme was “ASEAN Without Borders: Roadmap for Strategic Development of Ecotourism Clusters and Tourism Corridors”. It counted with the presence of all the Tourism Ministerial Round Table from all ASEAN countries and the idea was to make B2B (border to border) tourism easier. The objective was to sign the Pakse Declaration that will integrate the region’s ecotourism destinations. The promotion of responsible tourism in rural areas, organizing new tourism corridors through land, river, air or sea, and having easier border crossing process of immigration were among the topics discussed.

Fairtrek participated in the forum engaging with expositors, tourists and local people, talking and discussing about what is Ecotourism and how the private sector can make the difference and give back to the communities.

Fair Trek believes that all of the important discussions and agreements cannot stay in the paper and in order to succeed, this agreement needs the participation from both public and private sectors. Asia and the Pacific welcomed 277 million visitors in 2015, a fact that brings benefits but also several hazards to Laos. Destroying cultures, animal traffic, interfering with the development plan of rural areas, child abuse are only some examples. Both, the tour companies and the tourists must work together to bring awareness, achieve and promote Ecotourism and Responsible tourism all around Asia.

ASEAN_Ecotoruism_Forum_Pakse_GIZ_Booth_Fair_Trek_Presentation_PhotoGregorio Rojas, Program Manager of Fairtrek gave a speech in which he presented the Ecobungalow Project.  In this project, volunteer students learn about Laos while sharing with the local communities, working hand in hand building a clay bungalow in a rural village located outside Luang Prabang. Once the Eco-bungalow is ready, it works as a guesthouse owned by the community. Tiger Trail sells the Eco Bungalow tour in Ban Long Lao Mai to tourists in order to give them access to a community experience. 100% of the accommodation fee goes to the villagers.

This project is an example of a successful Ecotourism project. Its structure is made out of clay that is found on site, so no transportation of materials is required. During the building process, the students experience the village lifestyle while staying in Home-stays. For approximately 5 days, the students will sleep, eat, cook, play and share with their host families. This generates a healthy exchange for both villagers and volunteers and generates an income to the community for every meal and night spent in their homes. The villagers know the importance of this project and engage with the volunteers in building the structure and maintaining it afterwards. Coming November 2016, a new Eco-Bungalow will be open for tourist in Ban Nong Khuay, using the same model.

Eco Bungalow Ban Long Lao Mai - Fair Trek

Fair Trek’s mission is to keep building strong relationships with the communities and engaging in new projects that can give tourists the option of getting to know Laos and experience a true Responsible and Eco tourism. We believe participating in the The ASEAN Ecotourism Forum 2016 gave Fair Trek’s team the chance to know other companies and projects that share our mission.  It gave us the chance to discover new projects, new alliances that will allow us to work together towards the goals of this forum.

You can now book the Long Lao Mai Eco-Bungalow on AirBnb.

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This article was written by Gregorio Rojas and Juliana Gutierrez
Photos by Kyle Wagner