Tourism Students Get Eyeful in Vang Vieng


“During this field trip, I learned that the tourism and hospitality industry is not easy, as it requires more effort and skills than I thought,” said Sarah Lee, a Grade 11 student at Vientiane Pattana School International (VPS) enrolled in “Travel and Tourism” at the Cambridge level.

The VPS Tourism Class

During their stay at Inthira Vang Vieng, VPS classmate, Thiraphong “Jay” Inthavong, agreed, saying, “Managing a hotel isn’t as easy as it looks, because there are so many requirements that need to be done before starting to work, such as training.”

The Lao tourism and hospitality industry is consistently a top-three contributor to Laos’ GDP, yet continues to struggle in luring secondary school students into the trade. VPS Teacher Nate South is starting to open their eyes.

“My goal is to make students aware of the opportunities for employment, investment, and development that are right here in Laos,” said Mr South. “Even if my VPS students choose to pursue a career in another area, at the very least they will be more informed of what is happening here in Laos.”   

Inthira Vang Vieng Resident Manager Jibin Jose also believes in the importance in teaching tourism and hospitality to secondary school students in Laos, as the industry is a major employer, both locally and worldwide.

“As the tourism industry is one of the largest job creators in the world, it really helps if a few students choose hospitality as their career,” he said.

As for teaching, “Seeing the unseen side of a hotel is the best way to understand the unseen side of the industry,” Mr Jose added.

Mr South followed up, “I think my students learned much by hearing directly from him, much more effective than just reading from a textbook.”

Customer service took centre stage, when Mr Jose spoke to the students. As Mr South noted, “Hospitality and tourism are all about meeting the needs and expectation of customers.”

He stressed, “My students were able to discuss customer service with the manager of one of the top hotels in Vang Vieng. Hearing about his standards and the importance of providing a positive experience for all of their customers is not easy, but it has to appear natural and unforced.”

Most of the students got the message. VPS student Lena Clăre Feldschneider discovered, “The little things matter for customer service. Every detail is important so the customer feels happy and get their money’s worth.”   

Customer service also sparked Sarah. “Customer service is the most important part of the industry. This is difficult and needs so much effort to satisfy customers.”

Mr Jose pointed out that the students were extremely interested in a comfortable luxury stay. “They will start to notice the common and uncommon details of hotels wherever they stay in future.”

Alongside Mr Jose’s insight, Mr South planned this VPS field trip with multi-faceted objectives, including a visit to the Technical College Vientiane Province, where they interacted with the students, who are studying hospitality.

“The goal was to understand how tourism and hospitality are being taught at the practical level,” Mr South explained. “This school trains students right in the heart of one of Lao PDR’s tourism hot spots. My students got a glimpse of the type of schooling offered to post high school students interested in entering a tourism or hospitality career.”

Then it was time for activities and fun, but with a view through the eyes of a first-time tourist to Laos, as most of the students had been to Vang Vieng.

Having fun and learning about tourism

“My teaching philosophy is that learning should be fun. I believe you can laugh and learn at the same time,” Mr South said.

The zip-lining scene is growing in Laos, and many students opted to fly through the air and see nature from above.

“This is the best experience that anyone could ask for,” said VPS student Kamon “Tookie” Soukkaseum. “It helped us expand our creative thinking and discover another part of our life to help us enjoy living.”

Jay noted that zip-lining in raw nature offers a memorable experience that is difficult to encounter. “Zip-lining is pretty exciting as we’re experiencing something that seems dangerous, but it’s an experience you can’t easily find, and it’s a memory that will last a lifetime.”

Lena leaned towards kayaking. “It was tiring, but still it was fun, and the negative side didn’t bother me. Seeing the mountains, breathing fresh air, and being in natural habitats is awesome. It made me feel calm and relaxed.”

Tiring but fun

Sarah took to the cave. “My favourite activity was going to the cave, because we took so many photos together at the Golden Bridge, at the cave, and on Cave Street,” she said. “The walk around to the cave and seeing the cave’s emerald water was so fun.”

Mr South said one follow-up exercise, after returning to class is to assess why the beautiful area of Vang Vieng appeals to tourists, why the activities are enjoyable, did they feel safe, and is this area in Laos worth developing further.

“More than just a fun trip, my students had to think about the impacts of tourism on the economy, environment and Lao culture in general.”

Vientiane Pattana School International

Inthira Vang Vieng