Are MICE and group travel the way back for Lao tourism once the borders reopen? We Are Lao’s John Morris Williams recently asked Laurent Granier, Co-founder & General Manager of Laos Mood Travel, for his thoughts. Laos Mood is a MICE and group travel specialist with distinct and geographical markets.
WAL: How do you see the future for MICE and group travel to Laos?
Granier: It is going to be even tougher than before. We already know that airlines are stricter than before with agents that want to block seats. Restarting is slow and airlines operate cautiously. They still want to manage by yield management, and FITs are easier to manage, especially when things go wrong. So, to my despair, I do not see a restart of group and MICE bookings any time soon.
WAL: What are the current feelings from your overseas partners?
Granier: They feel sorry for us, because they send their accounts to wherever is open. And, Asia in general, is not currently on their radar. We are in travel, and there is no good news or sign that tells us that a serene restart is possible. In travel you need two sides to meet. We have nothing with which to be constructive: no vision, no flights, no visas, no conditions of entry/stay.
When we get a request, we know that we have become a tool to make another destination look good. The Dominican Republic, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Oman, Mexico, Dubai, Rwanda, and Tanzania are sharing the Belgian/French MICE market for long haul destinations.
Further, accounts decide from six to 12 months before traveling. They communicate beforehand. So, whatever is not decided “now” will not happen or materialize before the six to 12 months at best.
WAL: Do you believe that MICE and groups are the fastest way to bring some sense of normality back when the border opens?
Granier: We know how and what to do, so the tourists we handle are traceable. But what irritates me is that I have not heard of any differentiation in the way tourism is handled by authorities. Yes, I am for ”positive discrimination”, in the sense that I truly believe that a MICE (or even leisure) traveler, that is double vaccinated and subject to PCR tests before their departure and on arrival are safer than anybody else trying to sneak in illegally.
Rob (Nakarath Travel) said that already and I agree. The “risk vs benefits” ratio is somehow in favor of the economy, fueling not just cash but also hope and boosting morale.
WAL: What would you like the hoteliers your partners in Laos do to begin preparation for reopening?
Granier: Nothing special. Just be friendly and cautious with basic hygiene and sanitary practices, but honestly, nothing much else. Being open, courteous, and at a fair price (and not increased to pre-crisis rates), is already enough in my taste.
WAL: Would you offer a 2 week or longer MICE package to explore the sustainable side of Laos and get back to nature?
Granier: The MICE business will not come for two weeks-plus. They are looking at 4-7 nights at the very max. They average of 5.5 night. They don’t have time for activities beyond Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, and eventually Pakbeng and Nam Kat Yorlapa in Oudomxay for the very most adventurous ones with more time on their hands.
WAL: Regarding airlines and their group policies, would you require them to change their views?
Granier: We adapt to them, not the reverse. End of the story. We are not buyers. We merely make recommendations to agents in the source markets on what we hear from the trade and news, and that’s it. If we have to deal with airlines, it is going to be merely Lao Airlines for Bangkok or Hanoi flight connections to/from Laos. Domestically, in the future, I will make sure we use the train.
Laos Mood Travel: www.laosmood.com