Handmade in Luang Prabang' label boosts handicraft businesses
The Laotian province of Luang Prabang, a major tourist destination, launches local handicraft label.
It was to the sound of a traditional Laotian drum that the handicraft label ‘Handmade in Luang Prabang’ was launched on December 11, 2012 in a ceremony that was part of the Luang Prabang Handicraft Festival.
An initiative of the Luang Prabang Handicraft Association (LPHA), the label was supported by the regional government and by the International Trade Centre (ITC), which provided the initial budget and know-how in the framework of the ‘Enhancing Sustainable Tourism, Clean Production and Export Capacity in Lao People’s Democratic Republic’ project. Funded by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the project falls under the UN Chief Executives Board Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity, a mechanism that brings together five UN agencies including ITC.
‘The sustained development of Lao PDR’s handicraft sector supports rural family livelihoods as many depend on artisanal production to supplement farming incomes,’ said Govind Venuprasad, Senior Trade Promotion Officer at the ITC. ‘Through the launch of the label, we see an effective marketing tool that will provide a unique identity to locally produced handicrafts.’
Progress was remarkably rapid. ITC’s first consultation took place in February 2012. In June 2012, ITC organized a study tour to Siem Reap in Cambodia, where a similar label had been introduced. There, the Siem Reap Handicraft Association and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) offered to share their know-how with their colleagues from Luang Prabang and ITC.
Back in Luang Prabang, all preparations – from the development of an overall concept to the production of material, were completed within 10 months – demonstrating the commitment of all parties and the effectiveness of cross-border and inter-agency cooperation.
‘A large group of artisans, traders, the Provincial Government Departments, the Lao PDR Ministry of Industry and Commerce, worked tirelessly to transform this label from concept to reality,’ said Mr Venuprasad.
One of Lao’s major tourist destinations, Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that welcomes more than 300,000 tourists each year. Central to the country’s socio-economic development, tourism contributes to the Government’s efforts to reduce poverty and improve the living standards of Lao people. Nationwide, tourism jobs make up 5% of the workforce.
Although it is estimated that tourists spend USD 7-10 million each year on gifts and souvenir articles, most of the souvenirs that are sold in Luang Prabang are imported. This despite the fact that local producers, many of whom are women, offer a broad variety of goods, such as cotton and silk crafts, Hmong embroidery, clothes and bags, bamboo baskets, pottery, gold and silver jewellery, lacquer ware, handmade paper, wood carvings, paintings and musical instruments.
ITC will continue to track the market introduction of the label and to provide further support to LPHA for consolidating the label scheme until 2014. Preliminary results suggest that the label has boosted business and income for about 1,500 handicraft producers in Luang Prabang province, as well as for more than 300 hundred traders selling these crafts.
The label effect
In fact, a first impact assessment survey conducted in April 2013 showed that 70% of traders using the label said they were able to get a higher price for labelled products. Moreover, 97% of traders who bought the labels were repeat buyers, a positive indicator of the sustainability of the handicraft label. The effectiveness of the label can be gauged by another revelation from the ITC’s survey: 70% of tourists who recognized the label said it had influenced their decision to buy local goods.