“Me getting into tourism is a coincidence. I didn’t know it existed,” said Inthy Deuansawan, founder of Green Discovery Laos. “My dad wanted me to study tourism. I worked in sales and wanted to be an architect.”
When tourists began trickling into Laos in the 1990s, Inthy started fulfilling his design wish. In 1998, he transformed the family’s Vientiane noodle shop into the renowned Khop Chai Deu restaurant. “I figured a restaurant was the cheapest investment from a sales point of view, so I moved to architecture and the restaurant.”
Inthy then began talking with his foreign diners. “I wondered why they came to Laos. They said Lao attractions, friendly people, and untouched nature.” In 2004, he opened Green Discovery as an adventure travel operator. “I like adventure. Most agents offered classic tours. I wanted to provide something different.”
He started taking tourists to Vang Vieng, and instantly discovered his off-the-beaten-track itineraries required decent accommodation with restaurants, and few were available. “I wanted to design one myself. My place. My style.”
This launched Inthira Hotels, and Inthy had opened three by 2016. Plans call for the chain expand to five properties by 2018. Inthy has also opened the Xayoh Grill House and Suntara Restaurant in Vientiane.
Green Discovery now reaches into the far corners of Laos. The company has added treetop zip-lining, “via ferrate” (iron way) climbing, and deep cave explorations to its menu of activities. Today, Inthy’s name is synonymous with Lao adventure tourism. And when he’s not busy with business, Inthy competes in triathlons and marathons.
This article is based on a 2016 interview