What is like living and travelling in Laos, one of Southeast Asia's hidden destinations? We speak with Laurent Granier, co-founder and general manager of Laos Mood Travel. The Vientiane-based entrepreneur gives us an update from his hometown.
What have you been busy with at Laos Mood Travel?
I strive to keep my reduced team motivated enough to keep the company afloat. We still have a few active agents who show interest in returning to Laos — some sooner than others. And of course, we explain the situation to them and how we envision an eventual
restart of business — in my opinion, probably not before Q1 2022.
While we patiently await announcements of an eventual reopening of the borders with viable measures, we have focused on developing our services to appeal to the local corporate market with team-building and other “shared social moments that matter” outings.
We have done a few events and we hope that by the end of the year, more organisations and companies will show interest in rewarding their people in the way that suits them best.
It is a way to generate a bit of income and keep our mood as high as possible. It is based on our expertise we have developed over the years for the western market coming for meeting and incentive travel purposes, adapted and expanded this time to the
needs of the local market.
We also keep an eye on new and upcoming experiences, while we fine-tune and update many of our signature programmes that catch the attention of agile planners who reinvent and reposition themselves to holiday types that are even more responsible than
before, with longer and slower stays, benefiting the communities visited.
We also keep working on ambitious pieces of MICE business for accounts that come back to us after postponing their plans for 2020 and 2021. We manage what we can on the spot, and we anxiously await news that will help us materialise these accounts.
Since the beginning of the year, we have been communicating a lot on social media, especially LinkedIn. With new contacts for local corporate market, it proves pretty satisfactory.
We are also active on collectives and associations we have joined, especially for the French market. So we feed ourselves from best practices and contribute to positioning Laos on some people’s radars.
Can you tell us about a recent trip you took?
The last trip I took out of Vientiane was a business trip to Vang Vieng via the brand-new motorway for the first time! It takes less than an hour to link the heart of Vang Vieng with the outskirt of Vientiane.
We went there during weekdays to operate a team-building event for a corporate client. And rightfully for the client, we managed to energise what was a quiet destination.
What new developments are there in Laos that travel agents and their clients should know about?
The only thing we can predict will take place on 2 December 2021, on Lao National Day: the inauguration of the China-Laos railway!
The launch of the railway, open to passengers and not just freight, will perhaps be a game changer. For whom and with which effects, it is still difficult to predict.
All that I hope for me, focusing on western source markets, is that the arrival of Chinese visitors will not jeopardise the whole character of the places where the train stops. I hope it will not create bad publicity because of the cultural interferences
and potential chaos. And down the line, we will have to manage our way around taking in consideration the “new deal” with potentially more regional visitors all over the place.
How would you describe the current outlook for tourism in Laos?
Last year’s “Lao love Laos” marketing campaign is not as active as it was due to lack of funding, so added to the domestic travel restrictions in place, the slim local market is even gloomier than before over the upcoming summer months.
With our corporate offers, the good news is that we feel that we bring up some creativity and excitement that can be delivered in Vientiane and proximity. So, as long as there is no (temporary) rules on gatherings, we feel confident to be able to deliver
outstanding value for money experiences to be remembered for long.
Working remotely is tiring and reaches its limit at some point. We have been through nearly 2.5 months of lockdown, it is time to get together again to train, grow and cheer! Do not be afraid of outsourcing these outings, we can help deliver a “sense
of wow” to varied profiles of residents of Laos, local natives, long-time expats and newly arrived ones alike!
What are you most excited about when Laos reopens to international travel?
We are eagerly looking forward to contributing to the sustainable generation of enjoyment for the travellers, by selling custom-designed itineraries to loyal and new accounts who believe in the potential of Laos. Putting a smile back on the faces of the
local host communities who are also impatient to welcome kind-hearted and open-minded intrepid holiday-makers who crave visiting Laos (again).
And of course, generating enough revenues to recruit back all the collaborators we had before crisis, for those who are still not discouraged to work in the travel and tourism sector.
And personally, it has been over two years now that my family in France has not seen us. Kids grow fast, we miss them and they miss us. And we hope to be able to travel smoothly and conveniently so we are all reunited again.