New data indicates positive tourism growth in Laos

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism has unveiled the latest tourism figures, which indicate a big jump in visitor arrivals in 2019.

Data provided by the ministry’s Tourism Development Department show that tourist arrivals exceeded 4.7 million last year, an increase of 14.44 percent on 2018.

The number of visitors from China increased by 26.92 percent compared to 2018.

Visitors from Thailand, who make up the majority of holiday-makers in Laos, rose by 11.94 percent, while the number from Vietnam increased by 6.60 percent.

Director General of the Tourism Marketing Department, Mr Soun Manivong, told Vientiane Times the surge in visitors was largely due to the Visit Laos-China Year campaign, held in cooperation with China to encourage more people from the northern neighbour to explore Laos.

The government is introducing new policies to ease the way for visitors, notably by improving procedures at border crossings, Mr Soun said.

During the past year individual provinces organised a raft of events aimed at visitors and took steps to improve services.

In popular Vangvieng district, Vientiane province, a concerted effort was made to improve quality and service standards, and regulate the prices charged for food and accommodation. The fees charged at various tourist attractions were also reviewed. In Luang Prabang, some restaurants added Chinese dishes to their menus and Chinese language signs were installed at popular tourist sites.

In Luang Namtha province – the entry point for many visitors from China - authorities improved services at the border crossing and officials provided information and suggestions to Chinese visitors.

Officials are currently calculating the revenue generated by tourism in 2019 and will report on it soon, Mr Soun said.

This year the government will target domestic tourism and encourage more Lao people to travel within the country. This initiative is part of the national socio-economic development plan for 2020.

The government hopes to attract about 4.7 million foreign visitors and generate more than US$900 million in revenue from tourism. 

Officials will meet to discuss ways to encourage Lao people to take holidays locally and will hold talks with business operators about preparing amenities for visitors, Mr Soun said.

As of 2018, Laos had 670 hotels, 2,432 guesthouses and resorts, 2,646 restaurants and 305 entertainment venues, according to the Tourism Development Department.

There are numerous officially designated tourist attractions including 1,318 nature-based sites, 596 places of cultural interest, and 294 places of historical significance.