Tourism dollars flowing to Konglor Cave villagers in Khammuan province

The Khammuan province has been promoting previously hidden tourist sites in recent years and more and more people are visiting the province as the sites are revealed. Villagers earn various benefits from this booming industry, not least the cash income from the tourist influx.

A Ban Na Hin villager, Mr Pheng Sa yaseng, told Vientiane Times that since the province has been promoting tourism, he can earn extra money with his boat service at Konglor cave.

The boat service costs 100,000 kip for a return journey through Konglor cave, which covers up to three passengers. The income is distributed between the two people who drive at the front and back of the boat, the village’s fund and the required gasoline.

“After the gasoline and village fund fees, I earn about 35,000 kip per trip and drivers who do not own their own boats can make 25,000 kip per trip,” Mr Pheng said. “Normally I run two trips per day, but during the high season, I can do four trips.”

He explained that before providing the boat service, he grew rice and a few vegetables, but did not have any other sources of income. “I still do farm work but my wife handles most of that and I help out when I can. With the additional income from the boat service, our life is much better now,” he said.

About 80 boats currently provide services through Konglor cave and each has two drivers. In order to spread the income, boat owners in the village take turns providing services at the cave. This ensures that everyone benefits through sharing their resources.

Sandal and torch rental can also provide extra income for people. Mr Kham said he earns about 50,000 kip a day renting these items to tourists. He invested with friends to buy the equipment initially.

There are also shops that provide food in the area surrounding the cave. Along with a surge in tourism come hotels, guesthouses, resorts and restaurants to cater to tourists. There are many more of these facilities than in the past.

According to the Konglor village chief, in 2002 only 78 tourists visited the cave and used the boat service only 37 times.

With improved road access and the cave becoming better-known, every year the number of tourists coming to the province has increased and in 2011, around 8,000 tourists visited the cave.

These were mostly foreigners and together they booked around 4,000 boat trips. Between January 2011 and October 2012, tourism is estimated to have generated 782 million kip for the village.

Tourism in Khammuan began to be improved and promoted in 2002, through projects such as the GMS tourism project supported by the Asian Development Bank.