Southeast Asia is booming. Tourism to the area is on the rise and industry development is matching newfound tourist demand for the alluring region. As it seems to happen when places become popular quickly, much of this development has unfortunately, been haphazard, clustered and frankly, just overdeveloped and unauthentic. Genuine Thai restaurants are hard to find at some of Thailand’s popular beach destinations, contemporary architecture is quickly becoming the aesthetic of choice and local businesses being pushed out to make room for those that accomodate to more Western tastes. In many cities, chain stores have taken over and any sense of place that was once defined the mystique of the region, has been transformed to just another destination.
Refreshingly, in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (commonly referred to as Laos), Green Discovery is working to change that. The adventure and ecotourism outfitter works to create environmentally and socially sustainable tours throughout the country, each program directly benefitting the communities they involve. Locals are involved in all the company’s activities, ranging from guiding guests through the mountains, cooking meals and performing necessary maintenance to partners in developing programs and activities. Financially, Green Discovery supports the community too, providing funds to locals who are in need of short-term, interest free loans. The environment is equally cared for- the poverty alleviation programs working directly at addressing the slash-and-burn activities that were once popular in activity areas.
While many travel operators in Southeast Asia go with a more is better approach, sanitizing the experience to accomodate a perception of Western preference, Green Discovery puts Laos first. Native experts provide authentic information and the benefits of tourism dollars are in turn returned to them and the communities from which they reside. Each program stresses the natural Lao beauty and efforts to protect the landscape through soft tourism.
I was lucky to have Green Discovery guide me through the Nam Lik Jungle Fly, a ziplining and canopy program nestled in the Lao jungle about halfway between capital Vientiane and backpacker outpost Vang Vieng. The warmth of our guides and the pristine environment we called home for the day made the experience one I will not soon forget.
For the people at Green Discovery the goal is simple: to provide a sensible tourism that serves the people of Laos and helps to preserve the remaining natural environment.
Green Discovery, Hang Boun Rd, Ban Hay Sok, Vientiane, Lao PDR, +856 21 264 528, firstname.lastname@example.org