Creating a direct link between tourism and wildlife conservation

The ecotourism products developed in the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area (NEPL NPA) in Lao PDR have been designed to create a direct link between conservation and tourism so that the money tourists pay acts as an incentive for local people to protect endangered wildlife species and their habitat.


The NEPL NPA is located in the north-east of Lao PDR and is the largest protected area in the country, unique in its rich wildlife biodiversity supporting a wide range of species, many of which are endangered, including six wild cat species, Dhole, Northern White-cheeked Gibbon, Phayre’s Langur, two bear species, binturongs, otters, hornbills, and numerous species of civet, and other primates.

Living inside or immediately adjacent to the NPA are 30,000 villagers from 98 communities, many from some of the poorest districts of the country. There is a long history of human settlement in and around NEPL, with local people still heavily dependent on natural resources for their subsistence.


Ecotourism activities at NEPL NPA have been developed to provide additional livelihood opportunities for local people. The activities have been designed to create a direct link between conservation and tourism so that the money generated by visitors acts as an incentive for local people to protect endangered wildlife. Improved protection has been achieved through active community involvement, and the creation of conservation-linked financial incentive mechanisms.

To encourage conservation efforts, financial incentives based on encounters with wildlife (including direct sightings and indirect observation such as animal calls, footprints, and scat) by visitors on tours translates into incentive bonuses. Greater incentives are provided for sightings of rarer species.

All information collected on wildlife sightings and observations during the tours is recorded in an online database and is further incorporated into the NPA’s wildlife-monitoring program.

The primary aims of the tourism model are to:
  • Create additional income for local people – linked to conservation outcomes 
  • Generate sustainable financing for protected area management 
  • Increase awareness among local people and visitors about the importance of wildlife conservation.

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  • Close collaboration with local community and government agencies throughout the development and management of the projects is essential.
  • The link between conservation and tourism income must be clear and direct – simply improving villager incomes may not lead to improved conservation, however reducing poverty levels is an essential precondition for improved conservation practice at the village level.
  • The stronger collaboration and communication between the NPA Management Unit and communities can lead to villagers becoming key allies in conservation, and ecotourism can provide a way to meaningfully connect with villages that are key to the protected area program.
  • A well-managed and integrated ecotourism program can support the overall management objectives of the protected area and support the broader social and development goals of the government.

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