Brief Country Background
With a population of 6.2 million people, Laos is one of the few remaining communist states in the world. Like its neighbors Vietnam and Cambodia, Laos was once a part of French Indochina and gained independence in 1954. In 1975 the centuries old monarchy was overthrown by communist forces and the People’s Democratic Republic was officially established.

During the Vietnam War, Laos was heavily bombed by the US and currently is the most bombed nation in the world. Laos is classified by the United Nations as one of the world’s 50 Least Developed Countries.1

In 1986, the government of Laos began decentralizing control, encouraged private and positioned itself as an eco-tourism destination. The Lao system of 20 National Protected Areas (NPAs) covers nearly 14% of the country and is recognized as one of the best designed NPA systems in the world.2 In 2009 Laos had 2 million tourist arrivals and generated total revenue of US$268 million.3

Summary of Interviews
Majority of the locals interviewed said the benefits of tourism for them were economic opportunities but their main concern was seeing their culture influenced and changed by the increase in tourism. Interviews were conducted in Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane. Below are a few sample full-length interviews.

Luang Namtha

Bun, local tour guide
Dec 14, 2009
They (tourists) can’t communicate with the local people. Sometimes when foreigners visit villages, the local people can’t understand them. They don’t know what to do. And sometimes the local people are afraid of foreigners because they don’t know what they’re doing. If foreigners had local guides to guide them, the guide can explain to the local people.
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Luang Prabang

Paan, local tour guide
Dec 17, 2009
I think to make tourism better, visitors should respect our culture and religion when they’re visiting our country. Maybe the government can teach the local people how to conserve our culture and religion and educate the tourists what they can do to respect our culture.
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Vang Vieng

Adam, owner of a rock climbing school
Dec 19, 2009
So Lao people are very happy to become a modern country and bring more tourists to Laos and to Vang Vieng. They are happy to build up more restaurants, guesthouses and hotels because sometimes when we have big festivals or new years, we don’t have enough rooms for the guests.
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Vang Vieng

Mr. Thanongsi, farmer
Dec 21, 2009

Some people cannot prepare or make good long term planning or sustainable tourism. Now, it doesn’t matter if I have money or not, I can borrow from the bank and build a house or facility for tourism. It’s spoiling nature and for the long term effect, they don’t see it yet, such as cutting down the forest and building houses.
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Dr. Schwettmann, sustainable tourism adviser
Dec 24, 2009

My personal view of tourism is that it’s definitely needed and tourism is one of the pillars for the economy in Laos now. Tourism is for sure good even if there are many, many negative sides you see. So that’s why I can probably help to avoid the negative sides.
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2The Lao Tourism Administration |
3Lao National Tourism Administration, 2009 Statistical Report on Tourism in Laos |