Despite challenging economic conditions globally, over 4 million foreign nationals visited Laos this year, generating income of about US$670 million.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, tourist arrivals are predicted to reach 4.3 million by the end of this year, representing an increase of 4 percent over last year.
Foreign tourist arrivals increased from 2.7 million people in 2011 to 4.1 million last year with revenue from the tourism sector jumping from US$400 million in 2011 to US$560 million last year.
The government expects that this year’s tourism revenues will reach US$670 million.
Meanwhile, tour companies have increased in number across the country from 236 in 2011 to 342 companies in 2014. The number of hotels, guesthouses and resorts also jumped from 1,926 five years ago to 2,426 last year.
The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism attributed the growth of tourism to the constant improvement and development of the sector following improvements in the organisational structure that have resulted in a more systematic workflow.
Among the most noticeable successes were Laos being named the World’s Best Tourist Destination in 2013, while Luang Prabang won ‘Best City’ in Wanderlust magazine’s Travel Awards for 2015.
Participatory eco-tourism has improved and been constantly promoted over recent years.
An official with the ministry’s Tourism Marketing Department, who asked not to be named, said the private sector was planning to coordinate more closely to help implement a joint marketing programme as well as co-branding.
To stimulate tourism, he said the government has employed a three-pronged strategy: improving ecotourism in rural areas, promoting sustainability in the sector, and supporting cooperation between state and private business in ecotourism development.
The purpose of expanding ecotourism is to maximise the benefits for the country’s economy.
Another major goal is to decrease environmental and cultural impacts and to raise awareness of the importance of ethnic and biological diversity.
The government has also promoted responsible business practices, worked closely with local authorities and people to support poverty alleviation and deliver conservation benefits, and to provide a source of income to conserve, sustain and manage the Lao network of protected areas and cultural heritage sites.
Laos has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the ancient city of Luang Prabang and the pre-Angkor Vat Phou temple complex.
The Plain of Jars is also planned for World Heritage status for its significant archaeological, historical and natural value.
Around 70 percent of tourists come from within the region, especially Thailand, while the other 30 percent come from Europe, America, Japan and Australia.
Source: Vientiane Times