Laos’ appeal for incentive and event planners is in the genuineness of the Lao people. Laos is still very “raw”, authentic and sincere. It is home to over 50 different ethnic groups – spending an overnight trip in a real minority people’s village is a memorable experience. Laos’ nature is lush and little visited, making adventure sports like zip-lining, river kayaking, trekking and mountain-biking popular. Then, there are Lao cooking classes, textile dyeing, paper lantern making, etc, and of course, CSR involvement is not to be missed.
For many outdoor events, gaining permits can be a challenge. Having a good network of contacts is crucial to speed up and ease the process (although some events are to be avoided as they can be politically or culturally sensitive). Laos does not have magnificent sites like palaces or castles to host offsite events. Instead, we tend to privatise public sites and venues that are typical of normal daily Laotian life, jazzing up a local experience into a themed “Night Street Food Dinner”.
Unlike in other well-established and easy-to-access nations like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong, in Laos there are no bodies in charge of promoting business events. The prime focus here is more on ecotourism and the leisure market and how to increase the number of mainstream visitors with high spending power.
Laos should not to be viewed as a regional competitor to well-established countries like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and even booming Vietnam. Laos’ charm and appeal lies in its low visitor numbers (of the 2.5 million international visitors Laos received in 2010, only 350,000 were non-neighbour country travellers), unspoiled nature and preserved lifestyle. Laos can be seen as a “boutique destination” for small- to medium-size groups that will fully enjoy their time on a personal level.