Lao Tourism Ministry questions small number of European visitors

Tourists visiting Luang Prabang to explore the wonders of the World Heritage Site. - Souksakhone

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): More than 42,190 foreign nationals entered Laos on tourist visas in the first six months of this year, but only a small proportion of these came from Europe, America and other continents.

President of the Luang Prabang Hotel and Guesthouse Association, Mrs Toun Sisouphanthavong, yesterday attributed the small number of tourists from Europe and other distant regions to several factors.

She cited the Ukraine-Russian conflict, which had resulted in an economic downturn in some countries, the limited number of flights to Laos, and continuing Covid-19 related issues.

“The Covid pandemic made it difficult for travel agents and tour companies to make long-term marketing plans or arrange package tours for visitors from Europe as flights could be cancelled at any time,” Toun said.

“Although Lao Airlines has resumed flights to neighbouring countries, there are not the same number of connecting flights as before the pandemic.”

Toun said wealthy older or retired people in Europe were reluctant to take the risk of travelling because of unreliable and expensive flights and other uncertainties.

In addition, Europe is suffering from high inflation and the spiralling cost of living has discouraged people from spending money on travel abroad.

According to the Tourism Development Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, most visitors arrived in Laos in May and June, when 35,983 foreign tourists were recorded after the government waived all entry formalities.

During the first five months of this year, 36,529 people visited Laos, staying for an average of 7.9 days and spending an average of 1,245,000 kip or US$83 per person per day.

Of the total number of tourist arrivals, almost 50 per cent or 18,754 came from Thailand and 14,456 from Vietnam. Most came to Laos in May after the country reopened its doors to all international visitors on May 9.

Meanwhile, only 467 visitors came from Europe, with 172 tourists coming from France, the UK (88), Germany (52), Switzerland (25), Belgium (24) and Italy (14).

In addition, 446 visitors came from the USA, Canada (40), Australia (225), India (84), Japan (112), South Korea (144), Russia (14) and China (1,165).

Only 23 people from Africa and the Middle East entered Laos on tourist visas. Toun said it could be a year before more visitors from Europe and other continents returned to Laos.

“I think that the number of visitors from Europe will increase by about 20 per cent by the end of this year,” she said.

“In general, the outlook for the tourism industry is positive because Laos, particularly the Luang Prabang World Heritage Site, has many interesting attractions and activities to offer visitors.”

“One of the challenges is that during the pandemic, many tourism-related businesses laid off their employees so it could take some time for them to recruit new staff and rebuild their services so they are able to cope with large numbers of visitors,” Toun said.

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Laos , tourism


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