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Name of Property:

Kingfisher, Laos

ECOCLUB.com Rating:

1 ECOCLUB Sun1 ECOCLUB Sun1 ECOCLUB Sun1 ECOCLUB Sun0.3 ECOCLUB Suns  4.3 out of 5




Number of Rooms:

 Ten (10) Rooms 

Double Room Rates Range:

15 to 56 Euros (180,000 to 675,000 Laos Kips)

Name of Applicant:

Massimo Mera


Kingfisher Ecolodge Co. Ltd.
(Massimo & Bangon Mera)

Rating Application Date:

20 July 2009

Rating Period:

Opened: 1 September 2009  Closed: 31 October 2009

Breakdown of Ratings - (Total Raters):

4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.0, 4.5, 3.5, 4.0, 5.0 (Eight)

Individual Ratings & Rater Comments: Click here to read
Rating Explained: (For background information on the ECOCLUB Rating please see here)

The rating has been determined by ECOCLUB.com Members. The first 5 sections of this application each correspond to the 5 current ECOCLUB Criteria:

1. community, family or partner-owned and small-scale
(OWNERSHIP Criterion)

2. minimises its own environmental impact

3. meets the real needs of the community and supports local social & environmental projects chosen by the community in a direct democratic manner
(ECONOMIC Criterion)

4. eliminates poverty & inequality, avoids injustice & exploitation of all types and respects individual & collective human rights & tourism worker rights
(SOCIAL Criterion)

5. promotes knowledge, freedom of expression, collective direct-democratic decision-making, international & intercultural understanding
(CULTURAL Criterion)

Each section is of equal weight (1). The maximum rating score Members could offer to this candidate was 5, and the minimum 0. When a criterion was fully met in their view, Members would award a full point (1), when it is was not met but they felt genuine effort was being made, half a point (0.5) and when they felt that it was not met and that no effort was being made to meet the specific criterion, no points (0).
Click here to read the comments by individual raters.



(1.a) Who owns the Lodge?: Please clarify if private, family, public, municipal, NGO, cooperative, as well as the nationality and place of birth of the owner.
The lodge is owned by myself, Massimo Mera and my wife Bangon, I am Italian and my wife is a Laotian that acquired Italian citizenship some years ago.

(1.b) Who manages the Lodge?
The lodge is managed by myself and my wife.

(1.c) How many rooms are there?
10 (ten) rooms.

(1.d) How many beds are there?
A total of 20 (twenty) beds.

(1.e) How many employees are there?
14 (fourteen)

(1.f) How many employees are from the same village / city?
8 (eight)

(1.g) If applicable, do employees or the community own any shares or share part of the revenue?

(1.h) What is the total size of the land on which the Lodge is built?
Approximately 7 (seven) hectares.

(1.i) Who has access to the Lodge’s facilities and its land and for what uses?
All the local villagers are permitted to enter the lodge compound in order to reach other places nearby or to let their cattle graze. We have an agreement with the village authority that, while it is permitted to them to enter the Lodge’s land, it is not allowed to cut trees or hunt wildlife.

1i - Entrance to the lodge compound
1i - Entrance to the lodge compound. On the right is the way to go to the lodge itself, on the left the old path the villagers were using and that are allowed to continue to use even if it is now located inside the lodge’s land. For this reason we did not fence the area outside the buildings area.



(2.a) Lodge Siting (how was location chosen):
We have chosen this location because of its proximity to the local village that was already known for the population of domesticated elephants; because it is located on the edge of a National Protected Area and finally because of the particular environment of a wetland. Furthermore the area we are using was already degraded due to the vicinity of the village that exploited this area for fire wood therefore we didn’t bring much change to the environment.

(2.b) Policy followed during construction:
During construction we tried to minimize as much as possible any change to the environment by avoiding any kind of excavation, earth moving or unnecessary logging, several new trees have been planted in the lodge compound in order to replace the few ones that we had to remove for buildings construction. We also kept at minimum use of concrete or other non natural materials and employed only skilled local craftsmen. The lodge has been designed in order to blend as much as possible with the environment by avoiding conspicuous buildings. No asphalt or concrete has been used for roads, only soil and gravel.

2b - Solar panel on top of a bungalow’s wooden shingled roof
2b: Solar panel on top of a bungalow’s wooden shingled roof

(2.c) Lighting:
We use only low voltage bulbs for the lodge lighting. We use solar lights in most of our bungalows and path lights (low voltage) are switched off at night. All external lights are top covered to avoid unnecessary light pollution. Automatic (movement sensor) on/off switch of public toilet lights is also used. Training for staff and information for guests includes ways in which to minimize waste of electricity.

(2.d) Heating:
We do not heat any space in the lodge. Shower hot water in the guest bungalows is heated by a non electrical solar system.

2d - Solar water heater next to the bungalow
2d: Solar water heater next to the bungalow

(2.e) Cooling:
Our bungalows and restaurant lodge design removed the need for artificial cooling. Each guest bungalow has one ceiling fan which draws from 20-75 watts at the various speeds. The main cooling was achieved by having wooden shingles roof and tall louver windows (2.5m x 60 cm) without glasses which catch the available breeze. All bungalows are built on stilts. The bungalows balcony is also part of the living area which requires no cooling.

(2.f) Cleaning:
Cleaning is done using almost no electrical energy (Hoovers are used rarely) and using available bio-degradable cleaning products (for toilets). Laundry is done partly by hand and with semi automatic washing machines, no hot water is used. Laundry drying is always done in our “hothouse” room (no electricity is used).

(2.g) Water Management:
We use water drawn from underground well, water is filtered because of the high content of dissolved iron. We use electric power to pump from the well through the natural filter system (no chemicals are used for filtering) to the water tower. Our water system is fed only by gravity so no electricity is used to pump water to the rooms, in this way our water system is a low pressure one thus minimizing use of water. All water taps and shower head are of water-saving type, we use double-flush toilets and information on how to save water is displayed in each bungalow.

(2.h) Cooking:
We use GPL gas tanks for cooking and charcoal for grilled meat. We re-use or recycle plastic water bottles. We use as many local fruit, meat and vegetables as possible

(2.i) Waste management:
Kitchen waste is used to feed our chickens, turkeys and ducks. Carton, metal, glass and plastics are transported to the nearest city of Pakse (60 km) for recycling. All not recyclable waste is delivered by us to the nearest waste dump nearby Pakse town (60 km). Waste waters are treated by anaerobic septic tanks.

(2.j) Insect, pest control:
We have two kind of pest: rats and termites. Unfortunately, after not having success with traps of different kinds we had to resort to rat specific poisoning which is placed on the bungalows roof, this kind of poison is guaranteed to be eaten only by rats. We are forced to get rid of rats because they damage all the bamboo and other materials and guests don’t accept their presence. For termites we usually try to destroy the nest nearby the buildings and, if the wood is already attacked, we are forced to use spray to get rid of them. For the other insects we let nature work with a huge local population of frogs, geckos and spiders!

(2.k) Energy Sources, Use & Saving Measures:
Our main energy source is hydroelectric energy (Laos is producing almost all of its electricity by dams) from the power grid. We have a small amount of power generated by solar panels (rooms lighting) and by the solar water heaters. We minimize consumption by using only low voltage light bulbs, by disconnecting during night time all beverages refrigerators and by turning off almost all of the outside lights at night. We do not use any electric dryer for the laundry. We have information in our rooms for guests to help them minimize waste of energy (and water as well).

2k - Our “hothouse” to quick dry the lodge laundry
2k - Our “hothouse” to quick dry the lodge laundry, a natural system that works perfectly without any energy consumption!

(2.l) Noise Protection:
We do not create any noise that could be a nuisance to our neighbors or wildlife; we do not have any kind of music played or TVs in the rooms or restaurant.  

(2.m) Accessible by public transport?: (If yes, please provide instructions from nearby city.)
We have a daily local transport that can arrive directly to the lodge from the nearest town (Pakse). In order to catch the songtheaw (open truck with rear benches) one need to go to Pakse “Km 8 southern bus station” and ask for Phou Asa, the transport usually departs at 13:00 but schedule may slightly vary.

(2.n) What is the recommended way of reaching your Lodge from the nearest International airport?
Taking a taxi to the Km 8 southern bus station in Pakse and get the local transport at around 13:00 to the lodge. Easier alternative is to hire a taxi going directly to the lodge (about 60 km).

(2.o) Distance from nearby village / city:
Nearby village is just 500m from the lodge, first important city (Pakse) is about 60 km.

(2.p) Architectural Features:
All our buildings, except the kitchen one, are built with traditional local methods and on stilts. The reception/restaurant/bar is also built on stilts and on two floors. The guest rooms have been built rather far each other in order to guarantee more privacy and they are not visible from the restaurant as they are screened by trees and vegetation.

2p - Bungalow design showing stilts, high wooden shingles roof, tall side windows with louvers and top roof opening.
2p - Bungalow design showing stilts, high wooden shingles roof, tall side windows with louvers and top roof opening.

(2.q) Construction Materials:
All buildings and furniture, except the kitchen one, are built with local materials, i.e. wood and bamboo. The only non local material we used is the glass and the anaerobic septic tanks for waste waters.

(2.r) Landscape Management:
We left untouched most of the lodge compound, except a small gardened area around the restaurant, thus leaving the “wild” and natural landscape that we found before construction.




(3.a) Initiation or participation in local projects:
In collaboration with the Xe Pian Protected Area management staff and the local Tourism Authority we have souvenirs (T-shirts, post cards and information booklet) on sale at the lodge for our guests. Proceedings from the sales are used for the protected area management, to create a village fund for the nearby village and for tourism marketing purpose.

(3.b) Contact, cooperation with local organisations:
We cooperated (mainly with consulting and local first hand information) with a WWF project for ecotourism development in Xe Pian Protected Area (where we are located). This 2 years project just ended in April 2009. We often have as guest at the lodge people from WWF and other environmental organizations (WCS, Asian Development Bank – Biodiversity Corridors Initiative project, etc) where we exchange impressions and information on how to strengthen environmental awareness amongst local people. We are under discussion in order to collaborate with a “Green after school” program carried out by the ADB – BCI project in the local school (environment awareness for students), by providing visits to the lodge to the students.

(3.c) Direct Donations:
We do not have yet, at the moment, had the chance to make a direct economic donation for environmental conservation.

(3.d) Who took the initiative to build this Lodge?
It has need taken solely by myself and my wife.

(3.e) Did the local community participate in the decision-making process concerning the founding and creation of this Lodge?
Concerning founding there was not participation by the local community but we extensively discussed with them about this project before starting anything, only when we were sure of the positive attitude of the community we went on with the project.

(3.f) How are profits distributed, and who decides about it?
Profits are distributed to shareholders and for Lodge improvements, decision is made by shareholders. A small amount (5%) of the revenues of our eco activities are distributed to the village school.

(3.g) Are there any national and local taxes to be paid or are you exempt?
As foreign investors we have to pay: 10% sale tax, 20% company profit tax and 10% personal profit tax plus other smaller taxes

(3.h) What percentage of consumables are locally sourced, how many are nationally sourced, and how many are imported?
We can roughly divide as follows: Locally sourced: (including Pakse town as local) 70% Nationally sourced: 25% Imported: 5%

(3.i) Do you cultivate food for the guests?
We do a vegetable garden in the dry season and have some fruit plants like banana, papaya, mango and jack fruit.

(3.j) Do you have any agreements with local producers?
Local community cultivates only rice, we do buy from them but we do not have a specific agreement on place

(3.k) Have ever you received any funding, state, national, private or international and for what purposes?
We never received any kind of funding from third parties.




(4.a) Do your employees have health insurance?
Yes. We have until now paid for health related costs (including transport to the hospital) and from this year we are going to stipulate a private health insurance for our employees.

(4.b) Do your employees have paid leave?
Yes, accordingly to national labor law.

(4.c) Are your employees entitled to maternity leave?
Yes, accordingly to national labor law.

(4.d) Do you pay your employees above the minimum wage? (Please state minimum wage, and provide salary details)
Minimum wage by law is 30US$, we pay from a minimum of 50US$ (net) to a maximum of 240US$ (net) accordingly to the skills and duration of employment. Above the paid salary we also provide food for all employees and accommodation for the ones that are not coming from the nearby village. During high tourist season (6 months) we also pay a monthly bonus that vary accordingly to the number of guests.

(4.e) Average and maximum working day, and work hours per week:
Accordingly to national labor law our employees work 6 days a week with one day leave, if overtime day is requested we give to the employee the possibility to decide to be paid overtime or to take the rest day on another day, total week working hours is 48.

(4.f) Do you employ your staff all year round?  (If not, please explain arrangement)

(4.g) Do you employ immigrants? Are they offered the same remuneration & benefits?
No, we only employ Lao nationals.

(4.h) Do you employ trainees? Please explain what type of tasks they perform, how much they are paid, how many hours do they work and how do you source them?
Given the very poor situation in human resources in Laos I would say that almost all of our employees started as trainees not having any education or training before. They start with our minimum wage (or higher in case they have some skills like knowing English language) and then, accordingly to their improvements, we raise the wage accordingly.

(4.i) Do you use volunteers? Please explain what tasks they are given?
Until now we have used only one volunteer that came to help us to apply for the Green Globe Lite benchmark certification.

(4.j) Do you offer concessions to elderly visitors?

(4.k) Is there disabled access at your Lodge?
We do not have any specially designed disabled access (apart few small ramps we built on the way to the bungalows). Our tallest flight has six steps.

(4.l) What measures are in place to protect the local (or the indigenous) population from some adverse impacts of tourism?
Laos is a new destination in the tourism sector so the number of tourist arriving at the lodge and the nearby village is still not high, even if the numbers are growing each year. To help raise awareness about the do’s and don’ts for a responsible stay in our lodge and in Laos in general, we provide written information both on our web site and at the lodge on how everybody should behave in order to do not hurt local people’s use and customs. We are also open to discuss with our guests on the best way to interact with local villagers when requested.

4l - A poster located in the reception area
4l - A poster located in the reception area indicating the appropriate behavior a tourist should follow for a responsible stay in Laos. On the left a leaflet to help fighting the odious crime of child abuse.

(4.m) Do you undertake any poverty reduction initiatives or does your operation contribute to poverty reduction?
Believing that education is of primary importance for poverty reduction, we decided to set apart 5% of the revenues from sales of our eco activities (trekking, bird watching, elephant rides, etc.) in order to support the local primary school. We have raised so far more than 2.000 USD for the purchase of equipment and renovation of the local primary school. We have supplied directly to the school: ceiling fans, desks and benches and other small furniture, stationery (also for teachers) and reading books, we have financed the construction of a fence around the school and a gate. I would like also to say that our business is not born to be specifically a "poverty reduction project" but its effect is the same for the staff and their families (as well as for the guides and elephant owners) who benefit from the employment opportunities that we have brought to the village. Our employees would most likely be working outside the village far away from their families if they did not have employment here. Furthermore they have the chance (the only one in this area) to learn a job that could be useful one day if they decide to move to another place.

4m - Village school entrance gate showing our support to the local primary school
4m - Village school entrance gate showing our support to the local primary school

4m2 - Massimo’s wife Bangon handing over books in Lao language to the children of the local school.
4m2 - Massimo’s wife Bangon handing over books in Lao language to the children of the local school.

(4.n) Do you undertake any inequality reduction initiatives or does your operation contribute to inequality reduction?
While we do not have a particular initiative for inequality reduction we believe that being female employees more than 60% of our staff is an important step towards reducing sex inequality.

(4.o) Do you undertake any injustice reduction initiatives or does your operation contribute to injustice reduction?

(4.p) What is the minimum, average and maximum age of your employees?
Minimum is 19, average is 23 and maximum is 31.




(5.a) Is there a local community / e.g. a nearby village?
We are located very close to Khiet Ngong village.

(5.b) Do guests interact with the local community and how?
Guests doing one of our activities have the chance to interact with local guides. Most of our guests also enjoy walking around the village and have often friendly chat (for what possible due to the language barrier) with the village people which are very friendly with tourists.

(5.c) What type of information is available to guests at the property?
We have books available for guests about local flora and fauna. An “information book” is available in our guests’ rooms; it includes information about the lodge, the local customs, the Xe Pian protected area and about Asian elephants and also about the lodge environmental efforts.

5c - Information book for guests
5c -A picture of our in-room “Information book”. It covers different topics on the surrounding area and the lodge, in 32 pages.

(5.d) What type of activities are available to guests at the property?
Traditional massage by local villagers.

(5.e) Local guided tours for guests?
Bird watching and trekking (half, 1 and 2 days). Mountain biking. Activities with local elephants (short ride, 1 day ride and an “elephant rider school”). Our walk guided tours take our guests to the nearby forest where a detailed explanation of the flora (including edible and medicinal plants) is given by our English speaking guides.  Guides from the village are always present.

5e - Activities at the Lodge, Forest trekking.
5e - Activities at the Lodge, Forest trekking.

(5.f) Events / presentations held at the facility so far?
We have hosted a meeting about eco tourism organized by SNV Laos (Dutch cooperation organization).

(5.g) Specific programme for children?
We do not have specific child programmes.

(5.h) Research / Publications produced / assisted by the property so far?

(5.i) Is the local community at all involved in the operation of the Lodge and how?
By exchanging information with NGOs, we have suggested and successfully implemented a massage training course for local villagers, we now offer (without requesting any commission whatsoever to the villagers) to our guest the possibility to have a massage directly in their room. We always employ local guides from the nearby village/s when organizing activities and help selling the “elephant rides” carried out by the local villagers; this is becoming a significant source of income (if not the only one) for them.



(6.1). Please state any awards or green certificates won by the property:

We had received a 'Green Global' Lite certificate - download report (pdf - 314 kb).

(6.2). Have there been any independent (i.e. not paid or otherwise related to you) guest reviews, newspaper, radio, TV or guidebook reviews on your property, which may support any of your replies above? If so please provide detailed information and links (up to 10).

We are published in the “Eco hotels of the world” book and mentioned on their web site http://www.ecohotelsoftheworld.com/homepage.html . We are mentioned as one of the first real “eco lodge” in Laos by Lonely Planet, Laos edition. We are also mentioned on our guides like La Guide Du Routard, Stephan Loose (Germany) and others. We are mentioned on the French website www.voyagespourlaplanete.com We received reviews by customers on www.tripadvisors.com .

(6.3). Please propose up to 5 people with full title and contact details who are well-informed about your Lodge and are ready to back your statements in this application.

Two references were provided. They were both contacted by ECOCLUB to review the application and have both confirmed its accuracy.

(6.4). Is there anything else you feel relevant to this questionnaire, that you have not already covered?
Deforestation is a global menace and Laos is no exception. Heavy pressure is under way in these country still pristine forests and we are trying (informally) to raise awareness among the local people and authorities of the long term damages that this brings to the environment and social life. Being a huge (illegal) business and thus involving often high ranking government officials, we have to be very prudent in propagating this kind of information to avoid repercussions on our business and life but we believe in it and we are ready to run some risks. More international attention would be welcome, so we always try to speak with interested guests about this problem with the hope that, in our little, we will help the knowledge on what is going on here will exit the country borders.

(6.5). Please sign to indicate your agreement with the following:

I hereby declare that all my answers are true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and understand that I and/or my company will not have the right to veto or 'hide' our ECOCLUB Rating, which will be decided in the manner specified at http://www.ecoclub.com/rating if we find it unfavourable. I also understand that the rating will be valid for a minimum of 1 Year, and a maximum of 3 Years. By submitting this questionnaire I indicate acceptance of all ECOCLUB Rating terms, conditions and procedures as stated at http://www.ecoclub.com/rating and understand that these may be modified at any time without notice.

(Please enter (paste) your signature below or type your initials to indicate acceptance)

Your Name: Massimo Mera - Date: 20 July 2009



1st Rater: 4.5
*1. OWNERSHIP - 1 *2. ENVIRONMENT - 1 *3. ECONOMIC - 0,5 *4. SOCIAL - 1 *5. CULTURAL - 1 TOTAL - 4.5 points

2nd Rater: 4.5
This ecolodge seems really great - I would love to stay there....They also seem to have some great activities...I really liked the tour of local flora where they show you medicinal and edible plants (although it is not specifically mentioned on their website as an activity offered). I would give them a 4.5 as they seem to be very eco-minded and I particularly like that they contribute 5% of activity revenues to the local school and are going to organise the Green after school program. It is also great that respect local traditions and they let locals through their land and have built on land that was already depleted of trees (as villagers had cut them down for firewood), using only local craftsmen and local resources where possible. Perhaps they could improve on involving their employees more in the business by perhaps offering them shares, thus encouraging loyalty and equality. They also perhaps find a more natural alternative to waste water management for which they use a septic tank at the moment....Finally the massage training course for villagers sounds a great idea. A massage after a hard day trekking makes you feel like you are in paradise..:)

3rd Rater: 4.5
I have read the Kingfisher lodge application and was impressed with their efforts. I would like to give a rating of 4.5. I have not given the maximum because of their use of chemical to control rats. (We do this with cats which of course may represent their own problem to wildlife.) I also wasn´t sure how such a small establishment could maintain such a large staff but haven´t reduced the rating in this section.

4th Rater: 4.0
Criteria 1 - Ownership (1): The lodge is family-run and small-scale, and they allow villagers to use some of the land for cattle raising. But, there is no joint ownership with the village. The family is not local, not from the village. They are from another province/country. (1)

Criteria 2 (0.5) - Minimises its own environmental impact: Solar heating, area lights that turn off automatically, solar drying room, and gas burner are all good measures. They could use local people to wash clothes by hand (save water and electricity and put money back into the community); the rat poison that is used is not environmentally friendly. I also have heard that they have bought some of their wood from the village to build their bungalows. (0.5)

Criteria 3 (1) - Meets the real needs of the community: They have done a lot for the school. They are also helping to sell souvenirs that generate money for the community and NPA. They have tried employing local people. They also use local guides, local boats, local masseuses, and local elephants in all of their tours. By them being in the village, they attract a lot of customers who then use the village tourism services. However, they do not go the extra step to encourage/train local people to grow produce that they can buy (they plant themselves). Also, all of the profits are with them.

Criteria 4 (1) - eliminates poverty & inequality: They do employ some local people and they have done some nice things with the school. They do post the Do's and Don'ts poster. Although they don't have any injustice program, they do hire a few young women. They are good to their staff, although given the small size of their operation, their are limits to that (purchasing real insurance would be extremely expensive, so instead they provide help when needed). If they were a little more lenient with villagers, they might be able to employ more. So, they are pretty darn good on this one, but I guess not perfect.

Criteria 5 (0.5) - Culture: They do an OK job with the community, but not perfect. There is some confusion among community members about how the lodge is helpful or not, and even some dissatisfaction. This is partly to blame on the villagers not understanding how businesses work, but I think that the lodge could do a better job with working with villagers--even when it seems like the village could also be a better host to the lodge. However, the lodge does include local guides most all of the time, they provide information to tourists regarding culture, and they are a positive element for the village most of the time.

5th Rater: 4.5
Rating for the kingfisher ecolodge: 4.5   I would improve just the social section. Very good in section 2 (environment)

6th Rater: 3.5
1. rating - 1
2. rating - 1
3. rating - 0.5
4. rating - 0.5
5. rating - 0.5 

7th Rater: 4.0
Hello, This is my rating:

1. community, family or partner-owned and small-scale
(OWNERSHIP Criterion) - 1

2. minimises its own environmental impact
(ENVIRONMENTAL Criterion) - 1

3. meets the real needs of the community and supports local social & environmental projects chosen by the community in a direct democratic manner
(ECONOMIC Criterion) - 0.5

4. eliminates poverty & inequality, avoids injustice & exploitation of all types and respects individual & collective human rights & tourism worker rights
(SOCIAL Criterion) - 1

5. promotes knowledge, freedom of expression, collective direct-democratic decision-making, international & intercultural understanding
(CULTURAL Criterion) - 0.5

8th Rater: 5.0
The rating for Kingfisher Lodge in Laos:- We could not fault this rating application. In particular we admire the owners for promoting protection of the environment under the difficult political situation they face. The Green Globe award was also of special significance for the lodge to obtain, and provides great credibility to the application. We believe they are making a significant contribution to the local economy in a truly laudable fashion. 1 for each criteria = 5 in total.

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