Source: Vientiane Times
The number of foreign tourists visiting Laos in the first nine months of this year dropped by 9.1 percent to just over 2.88 million people compared to the same period last year.
The Chinese are the only nationality whose numbers increased, according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
More than 429,000 Chinese visited Laos, an increase of 5 percent compared to the first nine months of 2016.
Tourist numbers from all the major regions dropped in the first nine months of this year, following a decline in tourist arrivals last year after many consecutive years of rising numbers.
The number of visitors from the Asia-Pacific region fell by 7 percent to just over 2.7 million compared to the first nine months of last year.
Holiday-makers from Asean countries also dropped by 7 percent, to just over 2.1 million people.
Visitors from two other major regions – Europe and the Americas – fell by 34 and 35 percent to 113,982 and 43,224 people respectively.
Laos has also witnessed a considerable drop in the number of high-end tourists from countries like the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Germany by 17, 38 and 37 percent respectively.
Africa and the Middle East were the only regions whose visiting nationals increased in number, although an increase of only 1 percent was recorded with just 8,370 people visiting from these areas.
Thai nationals continued to dominate the Lao tourist market share.
Although the number of Thais vacationing in Laos fell by 7 percent to just over 1.3 million people, Thais accounted for almost 48 percent of overall foreign tourist arrivals.
Foreign tourist arrivals for the whole of 2017 are expected to fall by 11.2 percent compared to 2016, following last year’s drop of 10 percent.
Lao authorities blame the global economic slowdown and uncertain situations in many parts of the world for the decline in foreign tourist arrivals.
These include the ongoing fighting against ISIS in the Middle East, the immigration crisis and disputes in other regions.
Deputy Director of the Tourism Research and Administration Division under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Bounthavy Sisava, said the relative high cost of living in Laos could also be blamed for the decline in tourist arrivals.
In an effort to bring in more tourists in the years to come, the government has launched Visit Laos Year 2018 which officially began on October 28.
The founder of Travelindex, one of the largest travel and tourism indexes and directories in the world which owns 71 websites including the Visit Laos website, Mr Bernard A. Metzger, suggested that Laos needs to step up publicity to inform the world about Laos and its charms in order to attract more visitors.
He added that Laos has plenty of fascinating places of interest to visitors, but people don’t know about them.
Founder and CEO of Destination and Lifestyle Media (Thailand) Co., Ltd., Mr Stephen Morton, underlined the need for Laos to circulate information about its attractions in global media outlets.
He also advised Laos to improve accessibility to its tourist attractions so that visitors can easily reach them.