Laos records over 21 milion foreign visitors in past five years

Tourists walk in front of the Patuxay in Vientiane, Laos, Nov. 4, 2019. The Patuxay was built in the heart of Lao capital during the 1950s and 1960s to commemorate martyrs who fought for the country. - Xinhua

VIENTIANE (Xinhua): More than 21.7 million foreign visitors came to Laos from 2016 to 2020, an increase of 17.7 per cent compared to the previous five years.

Laos has considerable untapped potential to further promote tourism, according to the report submitted by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism to the recent 11th Congress of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party.

Laos boasts as many as 2,208 tourist attractions, comprising 1,318 nature-based attractions, 596 places of cultural interest, and 294 historical sites, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Wednesday (Feb 3).

These include the world heritage sites of Luang Prabang, Watphou Champassak and the Plain of Jars. Another striking symbol of Laos is the music of the khaen, which has been listed by Unesco as a form of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The largest waterfall in Southeast Asia, Khonphapheng on the Mekong River, is a stunning spectacle and has led Laos to be dubbed the jewel of the Mekong, said the report.

To maximise Laos' potential for tourism, the report said more must be done and additional investment sourced to improve tourist sites and related activities. This would inspire more foreigners and local tourists to take vacations around the country.

In particular, investment is needed to improve infrastructure, notably road access to tourist attractions in remote communities.

In addition, officials have pointed out the barriers to tourism, saying there are insufficient land and air routes linking targeted markets.

Meanwhile, tourism-related facilities have not been well developed, while the quality of service provided at various attractions fails to meet accepted standards.

The report underlined the need to offer more tourism-related activities alongside improving the services offered by tourism business operators.

Although Laos has attracted an increasing number of foreign visitors in recent years, officials said marketing campaigns had not reached many of the target markets and that promotional tourism campaigns currently in use were not sufficiently attractive.

Amid the rapid growth of all aspects of the tourism industry, the management of tourism affairs remains inadequate and the development of tourist sites has failed to meet planned targets, according to the report.

Although investment in tourism falls far short of the growing needs of the industry, the sector has seen progress in all aspects over the past five years.

The hospitality sector has seen the number of hotels increase by 4 per cent, guesthouses and resorts by 3.6 percent, and tour operators by 9.1 per cent. The tourism sector has generated jobs for 1,275 tour guides.

The report came after tourism has suffered severely during the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a sharp drop in the number of foreign visitors in 2020.

The government has directed authorities to draw up a post-pandemic tourism development plan despite the uncertainty in the current situation.

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