LUANG PRABANG, LAO PDR – During the week of March 4-8, 2019, fifty young entrepreneurs from ASEAN countries and Timor Leste met in Luang Prabang to join a workshop on ecotourism organized through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), a U.S. government-funded program.
Using momentum generated by the Lao Government’s “Visit Lao Year 2018” Campaign, the U.S. Embassy in Laos hosted the YSEALI Regional Workshop on Sustainable Eco-Tourism in Luang Prabang. The Asia Foundation organized the event, using U.S. government funding.
The goal of the workshop was to bring young Southeast Asian entrepreneurs to Laos to learn from small- and medium-sized tourism enterprises in Luang Prabang that promote eco-friendly, community-based models for tourism. Over the past 15 years, the eco-tourism industry in the World Heritage City has flourished, giving rise to many new small businesses that have played a significant role in the economic development of the area and the country.
“Promoting economic development in Laos is an important part of our IndoPacific Strategy and our Comprehensive Partnership with the Lao government,” said U.S. Ambassador Rena Bitter. “We are proud to help Laos showcase the positive ecotourism business models here so that young business people in the region can learn from the Lao experience and warm hospitality, and apply more eco-friendly business models back home.”
Many local businesses partnered with the workshop, serving as field sites where participants learned skills such as how to market ethnic textiles, how to operate ethical wildlife conservation areas, and how to manage environmentally friendly adventure tours. Participants visited major tourism destinations like KuangSi Waterfalls and Wat Xieng Thong, as well as smaller operations like the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center and Pottery House Lao Food.
Launched in 2013, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative is a U.S. government program designed to strengthen youth leadership and networking across Southeast Asia. By hosting educational exchanges, conducting regional workshops, and providing grant funding, YSEALI seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youth in the region and nurture a strong ASEAN community.