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90 Percent Of Tourism Businesses Close Due To Covid Outbreak

Source: Vientiane Times

The hospitality industry in Laos is facing a further slump as a result of the ongoing outbreak of Covid-19 with about 90 percent of businesses forced to close their doors.

Only I0 percent of tourism-related businesses remain open for long-term guests, Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Savankhone Razmountry reported during a virtual meeting of the Economics Taskforce held on Wednesday to discuss ways to reduce the impacts of the pandemic.

The meeting was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Sonexay Siphandone.

The Covid-I9 outbreak is having direct and indirect impacts on tourism and related sectors, especially hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, places of entertainment and tour operators, as well as land, river and air transport, said Mr Savankhone.

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Since the government called a halt to entry and exit by foreign tourists in March last year, with border crossings closed, tourism and associated business have seen their operations plummet as never before, he informed.

It is estimated that 637 hotels, 2,283 resorts and guesthouses, 539 tour companies, 36 travel agencies, 809 tourist attractions and 2,000 tour guides were affected last year.

Some 90 percent of tourism businesses and tourism service providers have suffered financial losses and have had to take out loans to keep their businesses afloat after losing income, Mr Savankhone said.

He also said that some business owners have laid off employees while others paid only 30-40 percent of normal wages in order to cut costs when they had no money coming in.

Other businesses continued to keep their employees on the payroll so they could maintain properties and keep them in working order and open for business if the opportunity arose.

Travel restrictions during the pandemic saw the number of international visitors plummet by 81 percent last year compared to 20I9, from 4.79 million people to just 886,447, said Mr Savankhone

The issue also affected workers in the tourism sector, who suffered after losing income through the loss of their jobs.

To help businesses, the ministry has asked the government to introduce a lenient approach by reducing or postponing the repayment of bank loan, and to cut taxes and utility bills, he commended.

The government was also asked to enable the provision of low-interest loansto tourism entrepreneurs who are good contributors to society.

In addition, the government is supporting the development of tourism and helping operators by reducing their financial obligations during the pandemic, so that they have the means to develop when the opportunity arises, he added.