Visitor arrivals jumped 8.2% in 2018 over the previous year to reach 4.1 million, but fell far short of the Government’s targeted 5 million for Visit Laos Year 2018.
The Vientiane Times reported that authorities are looking at ways to address issues identified during Visit Laos Year to improve conditions for tourists for Visit Laos-China Year 2019.
The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MoICT) released the 2018 figures showing arrivals from China soared 26% to more than 800,000, numbers from Thailand rose 7% to nearly 2 million, and Korean entries eased ahead 2% to some 174,000.
No figures were given for other countries other than to say that overall, ASEAN arrivals were up.
An official, who asked not to be named, told the Vientiane Times that one reason the target was missed is that arrival numbers reported in the past had been artificially inflated.
The official stated the reason is that many visitors entering on tourist visas were actually workers. Government efforts to regulate foreign workers may have driven this number down.
Speaking at the National Assembly at the end of last year, MoICT Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr Bosengkham Vongdara, attributed the visitor shortfall to other causes, such as the floods during rainy season, inadequate tourist facilities, and poor road access to tourist sites.
The minister also cited inadequate air transport, the slow development of tourist attractions though improvements have been made, and slow service at immigration points.
Tour operators also weighed in on difficulties they encountered during Visit Laos Year 2018. These include the cost of tickets to visit popular attractions such as the Khonphapheng Falls, temples, and expensive airfares, as well as poor service by immigration officials.
Some said services in hotels are not up to standard, roads leading to tourist sites are in poor condition, and the areas and roads around tourist sites are messy, especially in the rainy season.
They also said the authorities should plan promotions further in advance, as Visit Laos Year 2018 was not announced sufficiently ahead of time for visitors to learn about it and make plans.
Others stated that details on festivals was lacklustre or non-existent until just days before the events.
Vang Vieng remained the source of complaints. Visitors were being charged to cross bridges to reach attractions and to park vehicles once they arrived.
Authorities stated they are cooperating with Chinese authorities to improve the quality of hotels and restaurants at tourist hotspots for Visit Laos-China Year 2019.
Dr Bosengkham had told the National Assembly that the MoICT is working with Information, Culture and Tourism Departments across the country to improve service standards in anticipation of the influx of Chinese tourists this year.
Source: Vientiane Times, Siladda Souliyong