Laos to Miss Out On Five-Million Tourists Target This Year


by Arno Maierbrugger 

Laos will close its “Visit Laos Year 2018” promotion well short of the five million tourist arrivals target, the Vientiane Times quoted officials.
According to the report, Laos’ Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Bosengkham Vongdara, presented a year-end forecast to the National Assembly’s ongoing sixth ordinary session. His assessment placed annual visitor arrivals at around four million for the year, down a million on the ambitious Visit Laos Year target.
Blame was placed of natural disasters that caused massive damage in many provinces, as well as a tourism slowdown from neighbouring countries. But it was suggested that the Visit Year organisers should accept some of the blame for hasty planning and a failure to introduce specific events that would have attracted more interest from international travel markets.
Instead, the Visit Year promotion unfolded with very little to show in terms of online promotions in important source markets, specific incentives for tour operators, projects to raise air connectivity and new Visit Year specific events or festivals.
Laos is planning to introduce easier visa services during 2019 including an online eVisa facility similar to the highly successful Myanmar model. But industry analysts say more needs to be done to encourage airlines to fly to Laos and overland routes need to be improved. Security on the popular Vientiane-Luang Prabang route needs to be significantly upgraded as foreign travel advisories still warn travelers to fly between the two top tourist destinations rather than go overland, a distance of just under 400 km.
In the long-term, the country’s tourism development and the rollout of infrastructure projects, such as roads, are also hampered by a lack of funding, Vientiane Times wrote.
Meanwhile, the Lao government has set a target to increase Chinese visits from 400,000 to one million and, by doing so, the five-million target would be reached by the end of 2019.
Thailand up until the end of October welcomed over 31 million tourists, an increase of 8.34 per cent, while 14.1 million tourists visited Vietnam up to the end of November, representing an increase of 21.3 per cent. Cambodia is heading for slightly more than 6.1 million visits this year.