VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): The government plans to attract 900,000 foreign visitors this year which is expected to generate more than US$218 million, according to a Statistical Report on Tourism.
The outlook for the tourism industry is positive following the reopening of the country to international tourists on May 9.
As a result, the number of tourist arrivals has increased significantly in recent months, giving a boost to the supply of foreign currency, which is urgently needed to buy imported goods.
More than 35,980 tourists visited Laos in May and the figure rose to more than 171,800 in June, according to the report, which was issued by the Tourism Development Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
Of the total 211,898 foreign tourist arrivals in Laos in the first six months of this year, more than 60 per cent came from Thailand, 30 per cent came from Vietnam and the rest came from other Asia-Pacific countries.
The full operation of the Laos-China Railway, and the draws of scenic Vangvieng, the Luang Prabang World Heritage Site and the low value of the kip are among the main attractions for visitors from neighbouring countries.
But high-end tourists from Europe, the US, South Korea, China and Japan are not yet returning in significant numbers.
In Europe, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has had knock-on effects that are contributing to an economic downturn and inflation, while in China continuing Covid-19 restriction measures are preventing people from travelling.
Other issues relating to flight connections to Laos are also hindering the speedy recovery of tourism and the service industry.
Tourism is one of six important priorities for the country’s socio-economic development.
In light of this, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism has developed the Lao Tourism Development Strategic Plan for 2021-2025, which aligns with the government’s policy to promote the country’s natural, cultural, historical and agricultural attractions to bolster ‘green tourism’ and its sustainability.
Tourism has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which was reflected in the drop in the number of tourist arrivals, while the revenue generated from tourism fell sharply in 2021 compared to 2020.
With the reopening of Laos, the service and hospitality sector has started to recover, but very slowly.
To compensate for the loss in revenue from foreign tourists, the government has been trying to promote domestic tourism by launching Lao-Visit-Laos Campaign in a bid to encourage Lao people to travel around the country.
However, given the current economic situation and rising prices, it is difficult to target local tourists as a key driver of service industry recovery.
Laos is largely a destination for long-distance tourists who also visit neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Therefore, the number of tourists coming to Laos depends on various factors, such as the convenience of transportation, ease of departure and arrival, the diversity and quality of tourism products, and safety and security.
|Visitors arrive at Luang Prabang train station to explore the World Heritage Site.|