“We need to eliminate the idea that Pakbeng is just an overnight stop on a Mekong cruise. This is not true. There is plenty to see and do. This is what guests are asking for,” said Ket Thipphachanh, Le Grand Pakbeng Resort owner and Visit Asia Travel Managing Director.
Mekong River tourism began turning its spotlight on “Destination Pakbeng” in late 2018, as the cosy Lao port began to transform from a remote overnight stop on the Thailand-Luang Prabang cruise route into a multi-day stay-over town.
To this end, Le Grand has launched “Pakbeng, a Cultural Choice”, a 25-page e-brochure outlining some 30 tours. They include easy one-two-hour village visits to longer cycling, motor biking, and trekking itineraries to trips to the Mekong Elephant Park, 1,000 Year Tea Forest, and Tad Talae Waterfall.
“We need to show the real local way of life and their heritage and culture to world,” Mr Thipphachanh said. “Visitors experience 100% authentic local lifestyles, unspoiled like other tourist areas.” Local English-speaking guides lead the journeys.
Sustainable tourism plays a major role in Le Grand’s tour packages. “We just launched our activities in August 2018,” Mr Thipphachanh began. “Tours encourage guests to stay longer, which generates income to sustain the area’s tourism, and provide better living conditions for the communities.”
He said the 2018-2019 season represented the prelaunch of Destination Pakbeng, as it fine-tuned its offerings and begin a marketing campaign. The 2019-2020 “Pakbeng, a Cultural Choice” line up represents a major step in this direction.
Mr Thipphachanh said Visit Asia’s Vietnam office is already marketing Destination Pakbeng, and he aims to focus more on marketing Pakbeng. “Visit Asia Travel is planning a promotional campaign for our worldwide partners and the European market. This will be vital for Destination Pakbeng’s success.”
He added, “We need to promote activities in the Pakbeng area, and become a highlighted tourism hub in northern Laos.”
Demand for a Luang Prabang-base circuit taking in Pakbeng, Muang Xay with Nam Kat Yorla Pa Resort, Nong Khiaw, and Muang Ngoi is on the rise among tourists and bikepackers, with the region’s travel trade eager to solidify the route for all travellers. Much of it takes in the round of the world ultracycling championship and is loaded with tourism gems.
Mr Thipphachanh pointed to Nam Kat Yorla Pa, stating, “Local and foreign tour operators, who traditionally promote the two-day Mekong cruise, have noticed a change in demand and Nam Kat Yorla Pa’s success. They are adjusting their itineraries to include overland tours between Pakbeng and Luang Prabang.”
Some see Pakbeng as an extension from Luang Prabang, and Le Grand’s offerings include Mekong boat cruises between the two destinations.
Le Grand Pakbeng officially opened in late 2018 and offers 45 luxury villas. The hotel steps up a hill overlooking the Mekong, and spacious villas feature modern bathrooms and full amenities. The resort offers an infinity pool overlooking the Mekong, and most drinking and dining takes place around the hilltop Indochine Restaurant.