Exciting & Unchartered Grape Escapes: Laos!

Apr 6, 2015 | IWINETC 2015 La Champagne, France, Wine Tourism Conference

Laos Mood Travel is a Destination Management Company in South East Asia. The company was founded  by Laos and French expatriates. Visit the Laos Mood Travel website to explore the idea of visiting Laos and other southeast Asian countries.

Mr. Laurent GRANIER is a co-founder and general manager of Laos Mood Travel. Mr. Jean-Yves PAILLE is also a co-founder and Chief Experience Officer for the company. The travel company was one of the exhibitors at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Reims, Champagne in April 2015.

Below is an online interview with Mr. Laurent GRANIER. The photos were provided by Jean-Yves PAILLE.

What does Laos Mood Travel have to offer wine consumers?

“Absolutely tailored unique and authentic programs and itineraries.

Behind the scene access. Meeting with key people at properties (owners, vineyards managers, wine makers, site managers, chefs, etc.), that are not necessarily accessible to regular visitors. If the tour is not a mix of wine tourism combined with cultural sightseeing, then we can definitely plan pre/post wine tourism-only programs.

Endless enthusiasm!”

How do you specialize your tours for your clients? Are you able and willing to personalize a tour depending on the background of the clients?

“Yes, absolutely. This is the essence of our company, no matter the type of travel. No single program will ever look the same from one client to another.

Wine lovers’ groups vary from one to another, in size, in available time to spend on the spot, in budget, in season of travel (harvests around here are in February/March) and of course in profile: with wine producers, wine dealers, students, sommeliers or keen amateurs of wine lovers clubs for instance. So, clearly, our offer starts with a gross guideline / sample program, from which we happily tailor around, adding, amending and changing whatever needs be to fit in and match perfectly to guests’ expectations. Both wine, F&B and of course other sightseeing-wise.” 

Do you see wine tourism as increasing or decreasing? Why? 

“The wine producing industry in Thailand is merely burgeoning. It is about 25 years old for the oldest estates. So, clearly, we are still in the infancy of this interest for wine-tourism oriented sightseeing and touring.

First and above all, the vast majority of vineyards and cellars are accommodating local visitors, day trippers for most.

For instance, in Khao Yai, Hua Hin and around Pattaya (Chonburi province) areas, these are already well established tourist destinations. For whatever they have to offer: beaches, shopping malls, National Parks, golf, amusement parks, and/or nature-based activities. And it appears that some wineries are adding to the list of “things to do” for these locals, who primarily come from Bangkok, less than 3 hours drive away and looking for “green” and “different” things to do.

Wine culture is increasingly more popular in urban centres like Bangkok. Well-off people drink wine at wine bars, rooftop bars and other fancy restaurants. They enjoy their wine during weekend brunches and nowadays, purchasing wine is trendy to bring to parties and even to enjoy back home after work. So, to be honest, so far wine tourism is clearly oriented at the local market. And only very occasionally a few daring foreigners visit one or two wine properties, as a side sightseeing. But clearly, Thailand is not a Wine-tourism destination per se, recognized around the world. Imagine, even Thai people themselves do not necessarily know their country produces wine. And furthermore quality and award-winning wines! Everything is to be done under these latitudes. A small “wine trail” has been designed in Khao Yai area, but it is still pretty much confidential in a way, if we look at a big picture. There are some punctual events to bring more attention to Thai wine like Valentine’s day (that falls in harvest period usually) and some properties organize festive “Harvest Night” and other similar events to catch attraction of the media.”

How large are your tour groups? 

“Any size from 2 to 40 persons basically. From one private sedan to a coach size tour. Anything we do is absolutely customized. No tour looks like any other.

We even have come up with a fancy “private jet” version of program, where guests hop on and hop off the jet to reach the various vineyards/ wineries. Allowing 4 guests in style and their escort(s) (guide and eventually exclusive Thai wine advisor), making 6 persons total full seating capacity.”

How long do your tours last?

“Our attempts are to design tours that will give the guests a good picture of the variety of wines and wine producing regions of Thailand. So, if we cover the 6 main producing regions, I’d say that not to rush things off, you need to allocate about 12 days on the spot. More if possible. Geographically speaking, Thailand is bordering with Laos, on the other side of the Mekong River. But while Laos does not produce grapes to make wine, it appears that Thai wine producing regions are scattered around and it also makes sense to why not pass by Laos to make a loop and reach the northernmost regions of Thailand, by why not cruising up (leisurely-paced) the Mekong in Laos to reach Thailand’s Chiang Rai province and the Golden Triangle area! Where vineyards are being developed. And why not to finish in Hua Hin, with Monsoon Valley’s wines @ Hua Hin Hills and the pristine beaches on the coast.”

Are you willing to stop at an extra site provided it is open at the end of the day?

“Absolutely. But to be honest, wineries in Thailand are not plentiful like in more established wine tourism routes. They are not ‘one next to the other’. So, like I said earlier, our tours will take guests to explore the key wineries and I reckon that from scratch (planning / design phase) we (Laos Mood and the client / organizer) will build the routing and incorporate the right properties to be visited, leaving little room to additions or amendments.”

What do you feel that your tours offer that other tours do not offer?

“Our tours are comprehensive and link the various wineries to make the journey a proper “wine-oriented tour”, and not just a day trip or short weekend kind of deal. Today, what you may come across on the internet is eventually and merely sightseeing tours / day trips at the very best.

We target clientele coming from afar, primarily from Europe and the USA. With intercontinental flights, lasting between 11 and 20 hours or so! So, clearly, our approach is to design, promote, sell and operate tours for which guests will have for their money. Coming to experience Thai New Latitude Wines on the sites of production. You wouldn’t come all this way around the globe for a weekend, would you?”

Laos Mood Travel
PO Box 814
Vientiane, Laos

Article by Kathy Sullivan 
Wine Trail Traveler

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