Laos that has been named world's best tourist destination for 2013 by the European Council on Tourism and Trade. It’s natural beauties, gastronomy, and UNESCO World Heritage sites are attracting increasing number of tourists from Hungary, as well as other countries of the Central European region.
Laos is Southeast Asia’s most laid-back nation with a charm, magnetism, and possibilities with which many countries in the world can hardly compete. While Laos is a small country of the ASEAN, surrounded by powerful neighbours, such as China, Vietnam, and Thailand, it has demonstrated remarkable results in the fields of tourism, education, and the dissemination of culture in recent years. Strong bonds have connected Hungary and Laos since the 1980s, when many Laotians came to study in Hungary in the framework of government-supported student exchange programs. Tourism in Laos has become an energizing force behind the numerous success stories that the country is proud to have achieved.
Saly Phimphinith, Director General of the Tourism Marketing Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism expressed his contentment of the recent achievements with respect to the international promotion of Laos. He said that “it is worthy of note that Laos has been named world's best tourist destination for 2013 by the European Council on Tourism and Trade. The council chose Laos for this year's award for the government's promotion of free and fair tourism, the safety of tourists, the facilities offered, access to sites of historical and cultural significance, investment in the preservation of historical sites, and the benefits of tourism to grassroots communities.”
The country’s natural beauties, gastronomy, and UNESCO World Heritage sites are attracting increasing number of tourists from our region, including Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Austria. Accomplishments are aplenty together with the possibilities of cooperation in the tourism industry and the educational sector.
In August 2013 György Suha, President of the Honorary Consular Corps Accredited to Hungary and Rudolf Sárdi, Managing Director of Lao Airlines GSA for East-Central Europe paid a two-day visit in Vientiane, the rapidly developing capital city of Lao PDR, the country that is still registered among the countries of the least developed status in Southeast Asia. The objective of the study tour that the delegation undertook was to promote higher education and sustainable tourism in Laos. It is believed to help develop the international image of Laos and call the awareness governments and people to numerous possibilities of a mutually beneficial nature.
The delegation conducted a series of talks with high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism to discuss how the attractive features of Laos could be promoted among East-Central European travelers. Phimphinith said that the initiatives of tourism ought to be in line with the Seventh Five-Year National Socio-Economic Development Plan of the Government of Lao PDR: “In order to promote tourism, it is important to improve the services sector. Its positive spin-off should also be that regular income is generated for people, eco-tourism is expanded, and historical and natural tourism are enhanced in a sustainable manner.” The delegation was received warmly by Douangpaseuth Paphatsalang (Deputy Director of the Department of Tourism Marketing), Sengsoda Vanthanouvong (Director of Tourism Promotion Department), Anousone Douangsovath (Tourism Marketing Division), and Phonemany Soukhathammavong (Chief of Tourism Planning Unit), all of whom agreed to further the causes of this important future cooperation.
Sounh Manivong, Director General of the Tourism Development Department emphasized that the ultimate objective of tourism promotion is to “help Laos graduate from its least developed status by 2020, and the Government of Lao PDR places very special emphasis on the building of tourist infrastructure and further improves the quality of services.”
Increasing passenger traffic
During the negotiations, Sárdi added that the current GSA (General Sales Agent) representation of Lao Airlines in Budapest has increased passenger traffic from East-Central Europe to Laos, which will, in the long run, also contribute to the annual inflow of tourists to 2.8 million by 2015, as planned. Lao Airlines has played a crucial role in the development of bilateral relations, and a “Certificate of Excellence” was bestowed upon the directorate of the national flag carrier of Laos as a token of appreciation and good cooperation.
In addition to the important role that tourism plays in the country’s promotion, the delegation was interested to learn more about the educational trends and habits of Southeast Asian students, especially in Laos. Also in his capacity of Interim Dean of Alfred Nobel Open Business School (ANOBS), Suha expressed his desire to strengthen the ties with local Lao business schools and universities in order to provide high-quality training in certain niche segments of the market (airline business strategic management, business management, tourism and hospitality industry from a new perspective, professional research writing, etc.). Suha believes that Lao students could greatly benefit from the blended leaning strategies that ANOBS offers, due to the institution’s international versatility and highly trained members of the teaching staff.
Traditionally good bonds
The delegation paid a visit to Phetsamone Khounsavath, Vice-Rector of the National University of Laos, where the questions of international student and teacher mobility constituted the focus of the discussion. Suha said that the “traditionally good bonds between the two countries must be added further momentum by establishing close cooperation between the National University of Laos and other institutions of higher education in Hungary.” Suha awarded a “Certificate of Excellence” to Vice-Rector Khounsavath in recognition of his endless efforts in the educational sphere.
During the visit, the delegation also had the opportunity to meet Singkham Khongsavanh, Vice Governor of Vientiane Province, who also pursued her higher education in Hungary, as well as a handful of alumni, who graduated in Hungary.