MTF Insights: Paul Burnett @ Sanakeo Boutique Hotel
Paul is the general manager of the new Sanakeo Boutique Hotel, which is hosting the Mekong Tourism Sector Strategy Open Forum and the Blogger Match-Up. This will be Paul’s first MTF, having heard about event from Sanakeo’s owners. He first learned of the MTCO from local officials followed by a visit from MTCO Executive Director Jens Thraenhart and his team.
What opportunities do you see for your business, and Luang Prabang, in hosting the multi-venue MTF?
Hosting part of the MTF is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our hotel. We are relatively new on the scene, and therefore not widely known. My experience is that whenever stakeholders or guests visit or stay with us, they are very pleasantly surprised with what we offer. On a wider scale, Luang Prabang is Laos’ biggest tourist town. However, many people don’t know about the wonderful experiences they can enjoy here. In fact, many people don’t even know where Laos is! By having a multi-venue format, visitors will experience far more of what Luang Prabang can offer.
What challenges is your business and Luang Prabang facing in being one part of a multi-venue event?
One of the biggest challenges that we face with this forum is who we are actually working with regarding the planning. Our hotel has been visited by a number of local officials, who all work in the same organisation. We have been given contradictory information by these people. For example, we are preparing to host a group of 50 dignitaries and others on the evening of 4 June with a buffet reception. However, we’ve had three different versions of what we are supposed to be preparing. The folk on the last visit weren’t aware that their colleagues have already had significant discussions with our catering team, and that a menu has already been agreed upon.
MTF replies: Communication is the cornerstone of any organisation to successfully execute projects. We aim to minimize any potential issues as much as we can. Being based in Bangkok (MTCO), we can only be in Luang Prabang for short periods of time. This is the challenge for and Mekong Tourism Forum, as the event rotates around the region every year. However, we have been spending more time in Luang Prabang than in any other MTF host destination previously, predominantly due to the unique and more complex concept this year.
As it relates to Sanakeo Boutique Hotel, the host venue of the Tourism Working Group meeting as well as the Blogger Matchup session, we stayed for several days at the hotel (as paying guests), and communicated with staff including the new general manager, who has been very eager and helpful to get this hotel ready and prepared for the event. We are confident that in the end, the hotel will do an amazing job in being an exemplary MTF 2017 venue.
Bottom line: I am sure there are communication issues on both sides, but if we all work together with respect and without finger-pointing, but with a spirit to stage the best Mekong Tourism Forum ever as a group, we will be successful together.