First and foremost, always think about the safety and comfort of your guests, then think about how to make their surroundings as “functional” as possible. Functional means you should make it easy for tourists to move around both inside and outside their rooms. Pull the three concepts of safety, comfort and function together in your design and relate them to natural building materials, fixtures and furnishings. Your architect’s advice should always consider the guest. You are building the ecolodge for the guest, not the architect. Try and think like the guest when designing the ecolodge, and also think about what you like when you are on vacation with your family.
When designing rooms make them big. Tourists will pay more for a larger room with a large bathroom. Installing large windows and creating open spaces like a covered balcony or building a separate sala is a good idea. Don’t block a room’s view with a wall when you don’t need one. Try to use large windows and glass walls to take advantage of natural light. Tourists do not like to see neon lights in an ecolodge.
Unless it is completely necessary, you should not install air conditioning. Instead take advantage of natural ventilation and install ceiling fans. You should also build vents into the peak of the roof to allow hot air to escape the room. Put in screened windows and doors that can be opened. Even if you do install air conditioning, build the room with natural ventilation, ceiling fans, screened windows and doors so your guests have a choice about how to cool the room.

A garden walkway made from brick with a cement sculpture

Outside the room there should be a nice garden with plenty of native flowers and spots for your guests to sit and relax under shady trees. There should be well lit walkways linking the guest rooms with your rest-
aurant. It is not necessary to build them with cement. Raised wooden ones, gravel or brick looks nice to tourists and blends in well with natural surroundings.
It is possible to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your garden by planting local herbs and spices. Plant a lot of lemongrass, marigolds, chilies and basil and remember to limit the number of places with stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed.

Tourists like simple, attractive table settings made from local materials

In your restaurant serve delicious Lao food that tourists are very interested to eat. One of the main reasons tourists come to Laos is to try Lao food. You do not need to learn how to make fancy foreign food to please your guests. Simple, clean, delicious Lao food is fine, except for breakfast when most foreigners and many Lao people like to have bread, jam, coffee and eggs.
For the table setting, use matching uten- sils, cotton table cloths, dishes and bowls, and a simple ordinary set of drinking glasses and cups. Try to limit the number of condiments on the table to salt and pepper. If a certain type of food requires special condi- ments, have the server bring them out when necessary. Fancy designs on plates and bowls are not necessary. Do not use any plastic chairs, tables, or other plastic utensils in your restaurant. Remember, tourists don’t like plastic.

In the next sections, we will talk more about some design and operation- al details behind successful ecolodges in Laos and other countries.


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