Bun, local tour guide| Luang Namtha, Laos | Dec. 14, 2009
Bun is a local tour guide with one of the first eco-tourism projects in Luang Namtha, Laos. He shares his experience working with international tourists and explains some changes tourism has brought to Luang Namtha.
About Luang Namtha
Located in northern Laos, the town of Luang Namtha is the gateway to the Nam Ha Protected Area, where visitors can do trekking, river rafting and visit culturally diverse minority ethnic groups. UNESCO established the Nam Ha Ecotourism Project in 2002 to protect the endangered natural forests and the large number of ethnic groups from potentially negative impacts of increased tourism. This award-winning project “encourages cooperation between the public and private sector to implement a community-based ecotourism development approach that places local communities at the center of the tourism development and management process”.1
LPT: What do you think about tourism and international tourists coming to Luang Namtha?
Bun: I think it’s very good for the locals and they can benefit by earning some money from tourism. And I’m happy to help local people get more opportunities.
LPT: In Luang Namtha, eco-tourism is everywhere. Why do you think that’s important?
Bun: Yes, because if I compare now to five years ago, there was only one eco-tourism office. We were the first project in Luang Namtha and it wasn’t enough so we needed more eco-tourism offices.
Yeah, more tourists were coming so we had to do it. At that time we organized 3 tours a week but we couldn’t service all the tourists who were coming. So we had to open more offices so it’s better now.
LPT: And with more tourists coming, is Luang Namtha changing?
Bun: It’s changing. For example in Luang Namtha, we have opened more accommodations like hotels and guesthouses. Before that, it wasn’t a lot and not enough. And now, they have opened more restaurants too.
LPT: And the local people are ok with more tourists coming?
Bun: The local people don’t have problems with it. They are very happy. They are very pleased to accept the tourists.
LPT: What do you enjoy about working with tourists?
Bun: I enjoy speaking and learning English. Some local guides have only studied English for 6 months or 1 year so if they speak with foreigners, they can improve and develop their spoken English more.
LPT: What do you find difficult about working with tourists?
Bun: The language. They 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.
LPT: Can you give me some examples of something tourists would do that make locals uncomfortable?
Bun: Some foreigners or trekkers visit the villages on their own, overnight and have meals there. Because the local people don’t speak any English, discussing the pay is difficult. Some local people are afraid that the visitors will not pay or not pay enough.
Or sometimes visitors teach religion in the villages and the villagers and government are very worried about this.
1UNESCO | http://portal.unesco.org/es/ev.php-URL_ID=25225&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html