BANGKOK, 24 October 2018: Lao PDR’s Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office have launched Inspiring Laos, a new website that promises to inspire more travellers to visit Lao PDR.
A member of the six-country group known as the Greater Mekong Subregion, Laos has seen tourist arrivals decline over the last two years.
The Inspiring Laos website, launched during ITB Asia in Singapore last week is a marketing response to reverse that negative trend.
Developed by Chameleon Strategies, www.inspiringlaos.com is the result of a six-month partnership between the ministry’s Department of Tourism and the MTCO, driven by website management system ENWOKE.
ENWOKE technology will empower residents and travellers to share visual experiences on the Inspiring Laos website through their own social media accounts such as Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, the main stakeholders announced at the Singapore trade show.
Travellers will be able to tag their photos and videos with relevant experience hashtags in Laos.
The business model is based on the Mekong Tourism’s ‘Mekong Moments’ campaign, which is also part of the ENWOKE network of platforms.
The site’s architects believe Inspiring Laos will promote new destinations and experiences as well as drive exposure and bookings to existing businesses, especially smaller travel operators.
“We recognise that our exciting travel experiences are only possible due to the hard work of the many small and medium-sized enterprises, from accommodation providers, restaurants, tour operators, shops and attractions,” said the Ministry’s Tourism Marketing Department director general, Sounh Manivong.
A key objective is to spread tourism beyond the main destinations of Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane to secondary destinations and to focus on encouraging year-round travel to avoid overtourism.
“We are pleased to cooperate with Tourism Laos in launching the travel inspiration platform Inspiring Laos,” said MTCO executive director, Jens Thraenhart, at the launch event in Singapore.
“Being in line with the Visit Laos Year 2018 tourism initiative, we were eager to support Tourism Laos’ goals by sharing our experience with collaborative social commerce platforms such as ‘Mekong Moments’.
Visitors will be able to map out their entire trip to Laos as the Inspiring Laos platform offers all the necessary fundamental planning information in addition to its lattice of user-generated content.
Interested travellers will also be able to search for destinations and experiences by ‘region’ and ‘area of interest’ such as Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Pakbeng, Savannakhet, enabling a completely customised and shared experience.
The Inspiring Laos platform also allows visitors to search more specifically by using an interactive map marked with clickable pinpoints. Destinations and experiences can be filtered by eight different ‘traveller types’ (adventure, heritage, wellness, food, nature, budget, luxury and family). By clicking one of these filters, visitors can find experiences that are best suited for their style of travel.
It’s early days for Inspiring Laos and it shows when the site is explored in detail. It needs considerably more work on the content and what is available is mainly basic information that duplicates the country’s official website. (www.tourismlaos.org)
Some categories lack essential content. For example, dividing the country into four regions with the main destinations under the headings of Upper North, Lower North, Central and South is a good starting point, but far more input is needed to fill out content for each destination identified in the geographical categories. Maps need improving to facilitate meaningful orientation. Beyond the introduction for each destination, the rest of the flagged content lacks specific relevance to the highlighted destination. If you are looking at Luang Namtha, only the introduction is relevant. The balance refers to Luang Prabang.
This flaw means that when you are checking out a specific destination, without exception, the website presents three “captivating stories” (Three reasons to travel the Mekong River, Experiences in Luang Prabang and the Hmong New Year festival). Adding to the confusion, so-called “experiences” linked to each destination in the four regional categories feature Luang Prabang and one of them is a visit to its airport, hardly an experience of choice.
In addition vital information is sparse. One section on the weather categorises seasons as “High”, “Shoulder” and “Low”, which has no bearing on weather conditions a visitor might encounter. These terms refer to a resort’s booking performance rather than its weather patterns. It would have been more practical to link this section to a third party weather forecast for the sake of accuracy.
The full potential as explained by its promoters is presently not apparent when browsing the website, but that is not to say it won’t succeed ultimately in inspiring visits to Laos.
What it does suggest is that the launch was probably premature. Its designers could have done with another four months to resolve editorial issues. A launch set for the ASEAN Tourism Forum, hosted by neighbouring Vietnam, in mid-January, would have been more advisable.
As a pilot, or ‘beta’ version, there is the promise that ‘Inspiring Laos’ will have a bright future as long as its architects are prepared to invest in creating fresh, accurate content that will assist travellers and inspire them to share their experiences with others.
It’s early days so yes the government’s official website does feature more text content. (See: http://www.tourismlaos.org/index.php), but once traveller input kicks in, particularly through videos, photos and reviews, the new site’s content could dramatically improve.
Given another few months of hard work to source inspiring traveller generated content, who knows we could discover the new website lives up to its promise and inspires us to travel to Laos.