Laos Tourism at “Moment of Truth”

Travel News Asia Latest Travel News Podcasts Videos Tuesday, 13 September 2011

[HD video below] This year’s UNWTO Ulysses Prize winner Professor Kaye Chon told more than 100 travel industry leaders and National University of Laos students, during the 4th Lanith Quarterly Symposium in Vientiane, that Laos tourism has reached its “moment of truth” and must immediately elevate its service quality to achieve the targeted US$1 billion in annual revenue by 2020.

Prof Chon, Dean and Chair Professor at the prestigious Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel & Tourism Management, made the comment to open his presentation, “Enhancing Competitiveness through Service Quality”, at Lanith’s (Laos National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality) event last week.

“The tourism industry in Laos has advantages in its strong culture, friendly people, and unique attractions,” he said, but cautioned, “Service quality at all visitor contact points needs to be continuously enhanced to ensure Laos tourism’s competitiveness.”

Prof Chon emphasised the importance of tourism “moments of truth”, or memorable experiences which heavily rely on the service quality and personable interactions with travel-related staff, from immigration officers saying, “Welcome to Laos”, to a waiter, who remembers your favourite drink.

“Tourists often remember their visits based on memorable experiences,” Prof Chon said. “Tourists may forget the places they visited, the hotels, or the meals, but they remember those moments of truth when service quality exceeds their expectations.”

He suggested Laos tourism is now at its own moment of truth – that opportune time to make its move in the fast-growing Asia Pacific region – but stressed the country must raise the quality of skills training for the current workforce and education for tourism and hospitality students.

Korean-born Prof Chon cited his similar moment of truth, when he moved to Hong Kong. “I knew the 21st century was Asia’s century, and I wanted to be a part of it.” He noted, “Service standards have historically been Western-focussed, but over the past 10 years, an Asian standard has emerged, the so-called Asian Wave.”

Prof Chon pointed out that Lanith is perfectly positioned to deliver high-quality training and education for successfully hopping on the Asian Wave. Lanith’s innovative “Passport to Success” skills-training programme and cutting-edge curriculum for its four, two-year diploma degrees combine to meet the needs of Laos’ tourism and hospitality industry, and are taught by highly qualified Laos instructors.

Lanith Chief Technical Advisor, Peter Semone, said, “One of Lanith’s main challenges is to provide programmes that balance the grooming of human resources’ behaviour with providing knowledge, in order to build a tourism industry in Laos that is at the forefront of the Asian hospitality wave.”

He stressed that Lanith is following Prof Chon’s “Four-legged Chair Approach to Establish Quality”, an organisational structure change that adds industry support to the traditional three legs: quality of faculty, students, and university resources.

“Lanith has already implemented the Passport to Success skills-training programme in cooperation with an enthusiastic private sector in Vientiane Capital and Luang Prabang, Xieng Khouang, and Khammouane Provinces, and is currently seeking a private sector partner to invest in constructing and operating a four-star hotel on Lanith’s Mekong Riverfront campus,” Mr Semone said.

Prof Chon concluded by challenging Laos and Lanith to grasp its tourism moment of truth, and he outlined the industry’s needs for embracing the Asian Wave: raise service quality, create a relationship between academia and businesses, establish separate education and skills-training segments, and forge public-private partnerships.

Mr Semone wrapped up the symposium by noting, “Laos is in the middle of the shift to the Asian Wave in hospitality, and can become a centre of excellence for creating a strong hospitality service culture …We have arrived at Laos’ tourism and hospitality moment of truth, and it is time to move ahead.”

After the presentation, representatives from Laos’ Ministry of Education and Sport and Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Prof Chon, who recently co-ordinated a donation of US$50,000 in kitchen equipment from Hong Kong Polytechnic to Lanith.

Lanith is part of the EUR9.35-million bilateral development assistance Project Laos/020, which is supported by the Government of Luxembourg in cooperation with the Laos National Tourism Administration and the Laos Ministry of Education. The project aims to strengthen Laos’ human resources in hospitality and tourism.

Interview with Lao National Tourism Administration

At the ATF 2011, which took place on Phnom Penh, Cambodia in January, we spoke with Mr. Sounh Manivong, the Director General of the Lao National Tourism Administration about tourism in Laos. Watch the HD video:

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See recent travel news from: Travel News Asia, Kaye Chon, Training, Laos

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