Source: Vientiane Times
The full potential of tourism in Laos has yet to be realised and the government should grab the opportunity to amass more income, with the sector currently generating the most revenue after hydroelectricity and mines.
“The Lao government has to do something more to ensure Laos fully benefits from the tourism sector, especially from high-end tourists from Asia, Europe and other parts of the world,” said a senior economics officer with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Mr Soulinthone Leuangkhamsing when addressing ADB’s recent Development Outlook 2016 event.
He noted that Laos is fully integrated with Asean in terms of regional amalgamation, and services was one of the branches of tourism that had generated a lot of income for the government in past years.
The ADB reported that tourism-related services such as accommodation and transportation benefitted as tourist arrivals rose by 12.6 percent to 4.7 million and revenue from tourism increased by 13.1 percent to US$725.4 million last year.
“What is needed is for tourism managers to arrange more interesting activities to increase the number of high-end tourist arrivals and generate more income for Laos,” Mr Soulinthone said.
Laos has a wide range of tourist attractions, giving the country the chance to rake in more revenue from this sector.
Yet there are still many challenges in terms of improving infrastructure and accommodation facilities, as well as personnel development, to ensure better tourism services and management.
Foreign tourists now enter Laos by several channels including air routes and land transport between neighbouring Asean and other countries.
According to the Tourism Development Department under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, some 1,490 tourist sites are now officially listed in Laos, although some need further development to make them more attractive to visitors.
Most foreign tourists target the northern provinces including Luang Prabang, which is a popular destination for holiday makers from Thailand, China and the Republic of Korea, as well as people of other nationalities.
Meanwhile the capital and Vientiane province are centrally located and visitors usually spend a few days in these areas before heading to the north and south of the country.
Laos’ southernmost province of Champassak is also appealing because of its natural, historical and cultural attractions such as Vat Phou and the dramatic Khonphapheng waterfall.
Last fiscal year, about 600,000 tourists visited the province, which was 15 percent in excess of the target. The province is hoping to have 600,000 to 700,000 visitors by the end of this year, with a realistic prediction of about 650,000 visitors, according to Champassak tourism officials.
Although visitor numbers have fluctuated in recent years, Champassak is targeting 2020 as the year when it receives 4.6 million visitors.