Foreign tourist arrivals to Laos in 2013 reached 3,779,490 visitors for the year, exceeding the official target of more than 3.4 million, statistics showed.
The 2013 arrivals also surpassed targets forecast for 2015 of around 3,750,000 visitors, according to statistics from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
The 2013 figures represented a big increase compared to 2012 when Laos welcomed more than 3.3 million visitors who generated US$513.5 million for the economy.
Tourists from other Asean member countries have continued to make up the largest numbers of foreign visitors arriving in Laos compared to other regions – the numbers have increased constantly.
Statistics showed that visitors from Asean – the regional bloc comprising 10 countries including Laos – were recorded at more than 3.04 million visitors in 2013, an increase on the just over 2.7 million registered in 2012. Visitors from Asean were less than 900,000 in 2006.
Visitors from neighbouring Thailand reached more than 1.9 million people in 2013 – the highest numbers of foreign tourists arriving in Laos from any country.
Laos also witnessed the increase of tourist arrivals from Europe, from more than 185,000 to more than 212,000, the Americas from 75,800 to 85,900 and the Middle East from more than 7,000 to almost 8,000.
Officials said there were many reasons contributing to the robust growth in the Lao tourism sector.
Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara said that hosting the Asean Tourism Forum (ATF) early last year was a boost to the sector and helped propel robust growth.
Director General of the ministry’s Tourism Development Department, Mr Soun Manivong said Laos witnessed a big increase in tourist arrivals after hosting the ATF 2004, thanks to the tourism promotion campaign organised during the forum.
In addition, Laos succeeded in organising the Visit Laos Year 2012 campaign, in which a number of tourism promotion campaigns were carried out to promote the greater tourism industry.
More recently, the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) awarded Laos as ‘World’s Best Tourist Destination for 2013.’ that gave Laos a boost to drive tourism growth.
So far, Laos has boasted around 700 tourist sites which are being operated in provinces across the country featuring cultural, historical and natural attractions.
Mr Soun said an additional 800 sites have the potential to be developed as tourism attractions.
Growth in the tourism sector has driven growth in the hospitality business. Hotels and guesthouses are among the prime beneficiaries of tourism growth, as every visitor needs somewhere to stay.
Statistics show that hotel and guesthouse rooms in the five central provinces have increased from 8,800 rooms in 2005 to more than 21,000 rooms in 2011.
Source: Vientiane Times