The Asia Foundation Announces Winning Projects from 2019 YSEALI EcoTourism Workshop in Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos, April 1, 2019 — The Asia Foundation is pleased to announce the winning projects of the U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) Workshop on Eco & Sustainable Tourism. Implemented by the Asia Foundation, the week-long workshop in Luang Prabang, Laos brought together 50 participants from ASEAN countries and Timor-Leste to learn best practices from industry experts, develop a regional network of peers, and pitch their own eco-initiatives in competition for small grants awards.


After five days of intensive collaborative group work, case study reflections over a dozen site visits, and coaching by experienced professionals in the ecotourism field, representatives from each of 12 competing groups took the stage to pitch their projects before a panel of four expert judges. The panel included:

  • Dominique Le Roux, content producer and tourism marketing strategist for the Government of Lao PDR
  • Joe Cummings, regional travel writer and founding author of the first Lonely Planet guide to Laos
  • Sao Sotheary, policy manager at Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Tara Gujadhur, co-founder of the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre

Projects were judged on the following requirements: feasibility, degree to which the idea is socially responsible, degree to which the idea conserves either the environment or promotes cultural heritage, presentation effectiveness, and brand concept effectiveness.

All 12 competing teams took home a small “seed” grant award to be used toward implementing their initiatives.

The first prize winner, taking home a $5000 seed grant, was EcoHub:

Ecohub: where eco-travelers meet eco-initiatives, is a sustainable tourism loyalty app for tourists. When a tourist arrives in SEA, the app suggests member sites that align with the tourist’s specific interests. Member sites include socially and environmentally responsible restaurants and tourism attractions in the area.

Team members include:

  • (Jen) Vu Thi Huong, (team lead), Marketing and Business Manager
  • Hai Ly Thi, Community Manager
  • Ngan Thi Thuy Nguyen, general support
  • Thanh Thanh Thi Nguyen, general support
  • Yen Thi Hai Le, general support

Three teams took home second prize, each receiving a $3000 in seed grant, BamBike, Whee!, and Pun Puii:

BamBike – The team will leverage the grant money to expand Bambike, an existing ecotourism initiative in Manila that takes groups on cultural tours on bamboo bicycles, to a new location in Bohol featuring the chocolate hills. Team members include: Bryan Tomas Benitez McClelland, Clark Ross T. Bautista, Rafael Ignacio Dionisio, Clarezial Ladringan, Kimberly Jane Lim (all from the Philippines)

Pun Puii – This project presents composting with a twist. Targeting Luang Prabang, Laos, they plan to replicate a Bangkok composting initiative but with a refined composting instrument: a locally made pottery pot instead of plastic. Team Lead: Manita Vivatsethachai (Thailand)

Whee! – Whee! is a community-based tourism initiative with the Kelabit people of Malaysia, an ethnic minority numbering only 5000 people. The model puts 70 to 80% of the money back into the community, giving tourists an authentic cultural experience in a socially sustainable manner. Team Lead: Rhonwyn Hagedorn (Malaysia)

Launched in 2013, YSEALI is the U.S. Department of State’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia. Through a variety of programs and engagements, YSEALI seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youth in the region, strengthen ties between the United States and Southeast Asia, and nurture an ASEAN community of leaders who work across borders to solve common issues.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work.

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Related locations: Laos
Related programs: Leadership & Exchanges
Related topics: YSEALI

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Media contacts

Amy Ovalle, Vice President, Global Communications
amy.ovalle@asiafoundation.org
415-743-3340

Eelynn Sim, Director, Media & Strategy
eelynn.sim@asiafoundation.org
415-743-3318

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