The Mark proves to tourists and tour operators that a dining establishment has passed a stringent food safety and hygiene audit and received certification, which will be necessary for Luang Prabang restaurants as the destination grows in popularity among international travelers, who require carefree dining while on holiday. The Mark also shows that the eatery has necessary occupational health and safety measures in place, and is respectful of the environment through implementing resource efficiency standards.
UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) is supporting the establishment of The Mark, and has tapped Lanith (Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality) to operate the program that follows the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’s (CIEH) global guidelines for food production. The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is funding the scheme.
During the launch ceremony, the Luang Prabang Safe and Green Tourism Scheme Governing Board will award The Mark to four Luang Prabang establishments – Phouvao Hotel, The Balcony, Thep Boupha Restaurant, and Vang Thong Hotel – which successfully passed a strict audit by CIEH-accredited auditors during the initiative’s pilot phase.
The UN Cluster International Project Coordinator Franck Caussin stated that The Mark in Luang Prabang aims to provide a model for use nationwide, while creating awareness in the community for the need to offer tourists clean and safe dining.
“Most Lao businesses recognize the need for a business standard like The Mark, even though there is currently no mandatory minimum standard in place,” Mr Caussin said, noting that many restaurant kitchens lag behind in meeting the minimal level of accepted global standards, and others still do not realize they need food hygiene and safety to attract big-spending foreign visitors.
Lanith provides independent CIEH-accredited auditors for site inspections, which ensures The Mark follows CIEH food production guidelines for safety and hygiene, tourism health and security, and environmental protection. The Institute has also contracted Souphanouvong University to conduct laboratory tests.
Lanith has devised two packages to cover the three-step process for achieving The Mark. Restaurants and hotels must first register for Package 1 to learn about food safety and hygiene and conduct a self-audit before a Lanith-CIEH audit reveals whether or not the establishment qualifies for The Mark.
Eateries falling short of The Mark’s standards in Step 1 can sign up for Package 2, in which the restaurant’s staff enroll in four CIEH hygiene and food safety modules taught by Lanith’s CIEH-accredited faculty in Lao language. Those who successfully complete the training receive credit in their Lanith Passports to Success.
In the final step, the trained staff upgrade their employer’s kitchen(s) to meet CIEH standards, before undergoing a second audit. Upon successfully complying with the audit’s criteria, the Luang Prabang Safe and Green Tourism Scheme Governing Board awards the establishment with The Mark, which is valid for two years, when a new audit takes place.
Mr Caussin said, “This process provides a very practical and business driven solution to raising the level of workplace and food production safety and hygiene to meet minimal international standards. Staff, together with their management, need to welcome change in their workplaces, and The Mark can motivate them to improve.”
Lanith’s Luang Prabang Satellite Training Center, operated by the Institute’s internationally trained, CIEH-accredited Core Faculty Team, will oversee the process for attaining The Mark.