ALTHOUGH domestic travel has not grown as anticipated and cannot make up for the loss of foreign tourists, domestic spending by local visitors is helping to keep the industry afloat.
Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Ounthuang Khaophanh acknowledged that the growth of domestic tourism was not strong.
He attributed this to travel restrictions triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have to follow Covid-19 guidelines while encouraging local people to travel,” he said.
But he was optimistic that if the virus is contained and factories resume operations so that more people are employed, they will begin to travel and spend more, giving a much-needed boost to the tourism industry.
The Cabinet’s monthly meeting held in Vientiane last month and chaired by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith instructed the relevant sectors to strongly promote domestic tourism by providing a variety of tourism products and further improving services.
Those charged with leading the tourism campaign were advised to encourage more people to take trips around Laos and spend more money, so as to boost the economy.
But this comes at a time of a spike in the cost of living, which is closely linked to fluctuations in currency exchange rates.
Inflated prices are mainly found in the food and non-alcoholic beverages category, as well as clothing, footwear and medicines.
In addition, the fees and food prices charged at some tourist sites are high, further hindering the growth of tourism.
The government and private
sector have joined forces to promote the “Lao Visit Laos” campaign in a bid to sustain the basis of domestic tourism.
Ounthuang said the private sector needed to develop new tourism products.
This was an opportunity to prepare for and improve services for tourists in the post-Covid 19 situation, he said.
Business operators needed to realise that visitors would take health issues into account when planning a trip so virus prevention measures should be included in their services.
Provincial authorities have been advised to promote the tourism campaign and activities to encourage Lao people to spend their money on locally-made products, instead of buying imported goods.
Tourism is one of Laos’ main sources of foreign currency.
The direct contribution of the tourism and travel sectors to GDP is about 4%, while the total contribution is worth up to one-seventh of the economy, according to a World Bank report.
Lower tourism spending means less income for tour operators, accommodation providers, restaurateurs, retailers, and transport operators.
Over the past six months, international visitor arrivals shrank by 60% compared to the same period last year, according to the National Economic Research Institute.
Most regular international flights between Laos and China, Thailand, the Republic of Korea, and Vietnam have been suspended since February as a result of the virus outbreak. — Vientiane Times/ANN
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