Arounothay Khoungkhakoune (Aroun) is the founder of social enterprise, BambooLao, which makes reusable and environmentally friendly bamboo straws. BambooLao supports communities in rural areas by teaching them how to make reusable bamboo products to replace single used plastic, as well as generating a sustainable income for the villagers. In 2018, Bamboo Lao won the 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) challenge for its bamboo straws, an award that totally transformed the company.
Around says that “the resilience and adaptability of the people along the Mekong region who share one lifeline is very inspiring and spiritual. As a ‘bamboo bridge’ I want to help Laos to become more known as landlinked rather than landlocked. Having an understanding of both Lao and western cultures helps me to overcome intercultural indifferences.
“Tourism has always been an important part of my life. I was a tourist when I emigrated to Germany aged just four. All I remember was looking out from the cockpit of the plane in awe. Being a tour leader was the best way to discover Laos. I have also realized I possess a skill – the ability not only to translate the language and explain the different cultures to tourists and the locals, but also to transform global consensus into action; to achieve sustainable travel with a small step that is just as humble as our reusable bamboo straws.”