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Lao Service Sector To Lose US$ Millions From Coronavirus Fallout: Economist

Source: Vientiane Times

The nation stands to lose US$250 million to US$300 million in first-quarter revenue from the service sector, including tourism, due to fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, a senior economist has said.

Dr Leeber Leebouapao, a senior economist and researcher, told Vientiane Times on Tuesday that several measures had been put in place by the government to minimise the inflow of tourists to Laos, especially from China, due to the outbreak and this is expected to hit service sector earnings, one of the main sources of revenue for the country.

The coronavirus outbreak centred on Wuhan in China has impacted socio-economic development, both regionally and internationally.

Dr Leeber, who is Acting President of the National Institute for Economic Research (NIER), was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting to present the Assessment Report on Macroeconomic Performance in Laos and the key issues to be addressed this year.

“Presently, we can’t do anything else to stabilise the targeted revenue from tourism because the situation is unavoidable. First of all, the government will think of ways to safeguard lives and the harmony of the people,” he said.

Most of the income from the service sector comes from airline flights, transportation, hotels and restaurants, and this was expected to decline, Dr Leeber said.

“We’re not sure for how long this situation will hurt the service sector, but we hope the government of China will handle the problem in the short term to ensure there is no long-term impact,” he said.

The investment sector would be negatively impacted as well because Chinese investors fund many projects in Laos, and bilateral trade could also witness a shortfall, he added.

Measures put in place by the government to minimise the risks associated with the coronavirus outbreak include the suspension of group tours.

Many popular tourist destinations, especially Luang Prabang, Vangvieng and Vientiane, have already seen a drop in visitor numbers.

In 2019, more than 4.79 million people vacationed in Laos, with Chinese nationals numbering more than 1.02 million, an increase of 26.92 percent compared to the more than 800,000 Chinese visitors in 2018.

In addition, 200,000 visitors from the Republic of Korea travelled to Laos, an increase of 16.51 percent compared to 2018 (more than 174,000). Tourists from Asean countries ranked second in terms of overall numbers, with 3.19 million in 2019, a 10.8 percent increase over 2018.

Visitors from Asia and the Pacific region totalled 4.51 million, an increase of 14.56 percent compared to 2018, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.