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Laos Hopes That Business Will be Booming Again Soon

Source: The Star

Laos is looking forward to welcoming back tourists from China after the country optimized its Covid-19 response.

The Lao government and private sectors are preparing for the arrival of Chinese tourists after Laos was listed among countries green-lit by the Chinese government for outbound group tours.

“We are working in partnership with travel agencies, hotels, and other tourism-related businesses to improve facilities and services in readiness for the return of Chinese tour groups,” Darany Phommavong-sa, director general of the Tourism Management Department of the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism, said.

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“We held a meeting with private companies to discuss ways to improve facilities and design activities to entice more Chinese visitors to Laos,” he added.

Inthy Deuansavanh, the president of tour company Inthira Group, said that tourism in Laos was severely damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic due to the absence of foreign tourists.

Inthy believes that a large number of Chinese visitors will be coming to Laos.

“We are waiting to welcome Chinese visitors again. And I believe that traveling to Laos will be more convenient because of the operation of the Laos-China Railway,” he noted.

“The local tourism businesses need to get ready to attract and welcome back inbound tourists. One of the most important things is that we need to promote our outstanding tourist attractions, especially nature-based tourism, to reach our target customers as much as possible,” Inthy added.

He said tourism-related businesses must improve their services and make sure that customers can easily get access to their products.

“We opened a new department recently with Chinese-speaking staff. It aims to provide the best service to the Chinese visitors and try to reach the Chinese market increasingly,” he said.

Inthy strongly believes that China’s resumption of outbound group tours after the optimization of its Covid-19 response will be a strong boost to revitalize Laos’ economy and tourism.

“Anyone who wants to explore rich natural resources and biodiversity will not be disappointed with Laos,” Inthy said, adding that Laos is a fascinating destination for anyone seeking cultural immersion and outstanding eco-tourism.

In October 2021, the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism launched the Lao Tourism Recovery Roadmap for 2021-2025, which aims to support the recovery of the tourism sector in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

One of the three main policy options in the roadmap is the greening of tourism for environmental friendliness and better long-term recovery.

With its rich natural resources and biodiversity, Laos can offer an opportunity to promote nature-based tourism for sustainable and inclusive growth which will lead to green jobs and livelihood opportunities, thereby attaining green recovery and green growth.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Somphet Maopaseuth, president of Forestry Area Conservation Eco-logical Tourism, endeavored to transform challenges into opportunities.

“During our temporary close, we had a chance to restore ecosystems, train our staff and improve our service standard to another level. Therefore, we are more than ready to welcome back an influx of visitors,” he said.

Somphet advised tourism-related businesses to focus on ensuring the safety of tourists, training staff, and upgrading their services to meet international standards.

He pointed out that the Laos-China Railway is a great advantage for Laos because it facilitates tourist travel, adding that the return of Chinese tourists will bring a lot of opportunities, as China is one of the world’s largest outbound tourism markets.

“I am very pleased to welcome back Chinese tourists. Their presence is vital to the country’s tourism and economic growth,” Somphet said.

The Lao government considers tourism as its top priority in revitalizing the economy.

“We need to improve facilities so we can accommodate more tourists this year and ensure that tourism makes a strong contribution to economic growth,” said Lao Deputy Prime Minister Kikeo Khaykham-phithoune during a meeting held by the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism in January.

Kikeo stressed that tourism-related businesses must improve their services and tourist attractions, as well as diversify tourism products and activities in response to travelers’ needs and expectations.

The government hopes to attract 1.4 million visitors in 2023, which is expected to generate more than US$340mil (RM1.48bil).

Pavina Phouminh, a receptionist at Landmark Hotel, a top-ranking hotel in Vientiane, said that the hotel is prepared with added facilities, amenities, and products to welcome the return of tourists.

“We have a lot of Chinese-speaking staff here. We are ready to provide all travelers with the best service. We are 100% ready! And we are looking forward to the mass return of Chinese travelers,” she said.

Viengxay Phasith, a 56-year-old van driver who takes tourists to the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge from the city, said, “I was badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic because most of my clients are foreign travelers. The return of Chinese tourists gives me hope to get more income.”

Tourism experts predict that millions of Chinese tourists will visit ASEAN countries and many of them will travel on the China-Laos Railway, which runs from Kunming, the capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province, to the Lao capital, Vientiane.

Meanwhile, Lao Airlines plans to operate more flights in response to the expected influx of Chinese visitors. The airline currently operates three flights a week from Vientiane to Kunming.

It is set to launch additional flights from Vientiane to the Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, Changzhou, and Hangzhou. The airline also mulls increasing flights from the northern Luang Prabang province and the southern Cham-pasak province to China.