With tourism numbers still on shaky ground, Lao government officials are looking to the proposed Visit Laos-China Year 2019 to play a major role in boosting arrivals from the Mainland, as authorities keep the ongoing Visit Laos Year 2018 campaign alive.
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledged the launch at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai earlier this week, though details are still being discussed.
“Once the government gives official assignment and guidance, we will proceed and work with the Chinese side to draw up a plan in detail,” Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Ounthuang Khaophanh, told Vientiane Times.
Laos has faced a decline in international visitor arrivals in recent years, and is targeting high-end Chinese tourists to help mitigate the decreasing numbers from other countries.
Lao authorities aim to increase Chinese tourist arrivals from some 640,000 in 2017 to 1 million by 2020, said Director General of the Tourism Marketing Department Soun Manivong.
Laos has witnessed a recent surge in Chinese arrivals, which have helped cushion a major fall from most other markets. During the first nine months of this year, Chinese arrivals skyrocketed 35% to 568,851 over the same period last year.
Reports show that about 120 million Chinese take holidays abroad each year, representing a major global market share.
Mr Soun pointed out Chinese visitors have surpassed Americans in the number of outbound vacations and spending per person for the past four years.
Lao and Chinese authorities previously held talks on a preliminary rough plan for the Laos-China Year 2019 programme, including tourism fairs and business-matching seminars, with both countries expecting to organise promotional activities in major cities.
Lao authorities intend to organise events in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hunan, Beijing and Kunming, Mr Soun said.
“Lao and Chinese authorities have also agreed on the need to better facilitate and quicken the visa issuing process at border crossings,” the director added.
Mr Soun said Chinese nationals wanting to travel to Laos can also apply for a visa at Lao consulates in Kunming, Guangzhou, Hunan and Shanghai as well as at the Lao Embassy in Beijing.
Laos has direct flights to Kunming, Guangzhou, Hunan, Changzhou, Changsha, Jinghong and Chengdu to facilitate holiday-makers.
Souce: Vientiane Times, by Souksakhone Vaenkeo