Senior Officials Tell Tourism Police to Remove Travel Barriers

Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Ounthuang Khaophanh said immediate action is needed to remove rules that require tour operators to seek official approval before bringing tourists to Laos.

Mr Ounthuang cited the tourism police as the state sector imposing these rules, and told a meeting of senior officials last week that the government had already repealed similar laws, according to the Vientiane Times.

Tourism police currently require tour operators to declare the number of tourists and seek approval from police before taking them to attractions or pay additional fees.

“The issue is a barrier impeding efforts to impressively facilitate tourists,” Mr Ounthuang told the meeting, which was reviewing the implementation of the Visit Lao Year 2018 campaign through the first six months of the year.

He said the current law may have loopholes for some officials to set up checkpoints at borders between provinces or at the tourism sites.

Director General of the Tourism Marketing Department, Soun Manivong, said the rules are out of date and a hindrance.

“There is no country in the region and no other ASEAN member county that imposes such rules,” Mr Soun told the Vientiane Times.

Tour operators have complained they cannot seek permission for last-minute weekend package tours are booked, as most police offices are closed, Mr Soun said, adding these rules are unnecessary since tourists already have visas.

Mr Ounthuang called on authorities to simplify procedures to speed up document processing at border checkpoints, noting foreign tourists complain about time-consuming multiple steps.

Visitors also complain about expensive entrance fees at various tourist sites, high living costs, lack of direct flights, untidy tourist sites with plastic bags scattered all over, and impolite drivers.

Mr Ounthuang stressed the private and state sectors need to work together to attract more foreign tourists to Laos by diversifying tourism activities and related products.

He asked the meeting, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone, who is also Chairman of the National Committee for the Visit Laos Year 2018, to address these issues.

Source: Vientiane Times, by Souksakhone Vaenkeo