VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): More than 1.11 million foreign tourists visited Laos in the first four months of this year, according to figures from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
The largest number of visitors came from Thailand with 430,979, followed by Vietnam (224,461) and China (223,350).
Last year, only 45,249 Chinese nationals came to Laos, arriving from third countries, due to the fact that the Chinese government had not opened the country’s borders for outbound travel.
Starting on Feb 6, travel agencies and online tour service providers in China were authorised to arrange group tours to 20 countries, including Laos.
The start of cross-border services on the Laos-China Railway on April 13 was another huge boost to the number of tourists coming to Laos from China.
According to the ministry’s statistics, the number of Chinese visitors to Laos surged from 16,283 in January to 53,837 in February, rising to 73,192 in March and 80,038 in April.
Tourism authorities anticipate that some 368,000 Chinese nationals will visit Laos over the course of this year.
Over the past four months, most of the tourists coming to Laos were from Asean countries, totalling 694,263 people. This was followed by visitors from the Asia-Pacific region (306,530), Europe (78,268), the Americas (31,755), and Africa and the Middle East (4,144).
Among those visiting from the Asia-Pacific region, holidaymakers from the Republic of Korea topped the list at 57,189 while the number visiting from Australia was recorded at 6,629.
In addition, 15,546 French nationals visited Laos, as well as 15,150 Russians, 13,991 travellers from the United Kingdom, 8,978 holidaymakers from Germany, and 3,717 from the Netherlands.
Another 22,713 tourists came from the United States of America and 5,631 from Canada.
Next year the government will roll out the promotional Visit Laos Year in a bid to attract even more tourists from around the world.
There has been a noticeable uptick in visitors since the government reopened the country to foreign travel in May last year and the Laos-China Railway came into service at the end of 2021.
The railway is a very popular means of travel and passes through the provinces of Luang Prabang and Oudomxay, which have many places of interest to tourists, including adventure activities.
More than 1.68 million tourists made trips around Laos last year, equalling 85.5 per cent of the target set for 2022 and generating more than US$219 million in revenue.
This year the government has made tourism a top priority in efforts to revitalise the economy and is aiming to attract at least 1.4 million foreign tourists, according to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.