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Steven Schipani has lived and worked in the Lao PDR since 1999, focusing on the development of community-based ecotourism for poverty alleviation, protected area management and cultural heritage protection. Prior to his arrival in Laos, he was a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand from 1994-1996. Mr. Schipani is currently engaged as the Team Leader of the ADB financed Mekong Tourism Development Project in Lao PDR and serves as a Regional Ecotourism Advisor for the UNESCO Bangkok Office. His interests include preservation of cultural heritage and indigenous knowledge systems, thematic interpretation, forest trekking, Lao food and deep-sea fishing. He has one child named Michael.
LAO ECOTOURISM: A REVIEW OF PROGRESS AND FUTURE CHALLENGES
Presented by Mr. Steven Schipani, Team Leader LNTA-ADB Mekong Tourism Development Project, Regional Ecotourism Advisor, Office of the UNESCO Regional Advisor for Culture in Asia and the Pacific
Laos is well-placed to gain socio-economic and conservation benefits from the ecotourism sector. The country has a diversity of excellent ecotourism resources, robust growth in international tourist arrivals, a favourable investment climate, strategic location and a reputation for warm hospitality. A considerable effort is underway to strengthen the country’s capacity to manage its cultural and natural heritage for the benefit of livelihood security through ecotourism development. While still in a favourable position to take advantage of its ecotourism assets, the country is at a critical juncture in terms of managing its attractions and ensuring that ecotourism makes measurable benefits to poverty alleviation and heritage protection. There is ample opportunity for the public and private sector, with assistance from development partners, to join hands and accomplish these formidable tasks. This paper explores the significant progress that Laos has made in developing its nascent ecotourism sector, and the challenges it faces in positioning itself as an outstanding and internationally recognised tourism destination.
The authors of the full paper are Dr. Paul Rogers, Senior Ecotourism Advisor, Netherlands Development Organization SNV Lao PDR Programme, Steven Schipani, and Tom Morgan, Research Assistant, Netherlands Development Organization SNV Lao PDR Programme