Tourism as a tool for development was first mooted in the 1970s. Recently, focus has been on the role of ecotourism, pro-poor tourism and community-based tourism (CBT). This has been so in Lao People's Democratic Republic, where international tourism is a vital source of foreign exchange and employment and an important feature of the government's poverty-alleviation strategy. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) finances many infrastructural projects facilitating tourist movement in the Lower Mekong Basin, and with the Lao Government and the Netherlands Development Agency (SNV) is a key player in donor-assisted, community-based tourism (DACBT). The development of DACBT in Lao PDR is discussed in some detail, especially the Nam Ha Ecotourism Project, and is compared briefly with the role of the private sector in tourism development in Southern Lao PDR. It is concluded that while DACBT projects can indeed alleviate poverty and develop financial and cultural capital, private sector tourism enterprises also have an important role in poverty alleviation, and it should not be assumed that DACBT is the only - or necessarily the most efficient - form of pro-poor tourism. © 2007 D. Harrison and S. Schipani.
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