LUANG PRABANG, LAO PDR – “The Mark Community” led Luang Prabang’s public and private sector tourism stakeholders in sponsoring an Elephant Baci Ceremony during the city’s 20th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The event welcomed a 20-strong Elephant Caravan, which spent 53 days trekking the 630-km route from Sayabouly Province’s Elephant Conservation Center to Luang Prabang.
Led by Luang Prabang’s revered white elephant, the caravan arrived at the Elephant Baci Ceremony at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, 10 December, with a crowd of thousands welcoming them to the outdoor arena.
Luang Prabang View hotel owner, Bounthieng Deuangprasurth, donated the land for the event, which took place on the proposed site for the new Night Market.
The Luang Prabang View hotel recently received “The Mark” for clean and safe dining, and joins the city’s Mark Community, a growing group of local hotels and restaurants certified by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) for following global food production guidelines.
The Mark Community supported the ceremony, with nine hotels, along with LANITH (Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality), signing up to back the event.
The Mark Community members co-sponsoring the ceremony included Kiridara, Maison Dalabua, Maison Souvannaphoum, Satri House, Victoria Xiengthong Palace, Villa Maly, Villa Santi, and 3 Nagas.
The sizeable venue for the Elephant Baci Ceremony featured a massive lotus-shaped flower centerpiece, made with more than 200 kg of marigolds pinned to a banana-skin frame.
Luang Prabang View contributed LAK 15 million (US$1,850) for the floral statue as well as the ceremony’s stage, scaffolding, and lights, with The Mark Community and partnering tourism stakeholders adding a combined US$1,500.
Luang Prabang View also arranged the US$1,000 fruit feast for the elephants, which dined at individual tables.
During the ceremony, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Khampheng Saysompheng presented Mr. Deuangprasurth and Sebastien Duffilot, co-founder of the Elephant Conservation Center, with awards recognizing their contributions to Laos and the UNESCO anniversary celebration.
After the event, The Mark Manager Manichan Chanpradid revealed LANITH – The Mark’s operating body – is set to continue the CIEH training program and restaurant audits in 2016.
The Mark certifies restaurants and hotels meet CIEH global standards for clean and safe food production.
“We aim to add 15 members to The Mark Community in 2016,” Ms. Chanpradid said.
LANITH also announced a soon-to-open luxury hotel has booked The Balcony, the institute’s restaurant d’application in Luang Prabang, to train its staff to international standards.
Gary Tyson, general manager of the new five-star property located on the grounds of the old Phousy Hotel, said he wants the hotel to hit the ground running when it opens in 2016.
“It is imperative that our staff receive CIEH training and the hotel achieves The Mark to ensure we deliver quality service with safe and hygienic food production,” he said.
Mr. Tyson added “We also want to become an active member of The Mark Community and contribute to establishing Luang Prabang as a competitive international destination.”
The Mark Community is the leading private-sector partner in the local government’s Luang Prabang Safe & Green Tourism Scheme. Among its objectives is solidifying public-private sector partnerships to promote tourism for the UNESCO World Heritage city.
LANITH receives support from UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) and funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) to oversee The Mark.
By Bernie Rosenbloom