Laos will join Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar in offering an online e-visa option for tourism purposes, the last country in Southeast Asia to switch from passport-page sized stickers to electronically prearranged visas for self-printout. The service is currently under preparation and is set to be offered at the end of this year or early next year in a move to attract more foreign tourists to Laos.
Authorities in charge are accelerating procedures for the launch of the e-visa service, a senior official of the Consular Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Vientiane Times.
Only foreign tourists will be eligible to apply for Laos’ entry visa online. Overseas business people and officials are required to apply for entry visas from Lao embassies and consulates as normal, according to the official.
Currently, there are two ways which foreign visitors can apply for an entry visa – one is to apply for a visa on arrival, which is available at 22 international border checkpoints of the country. However, the remaining five international border checkpoints do not service visas on arrival.
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Another way is to apply for an entry visa from a Lao embassy or consulate which can be rather inconvenient, particularly for those living in countries where there is no Lao diplomatic post.
Especially frequent travelers find it inconvenient that the current Laos visa sticker consumes one full passport page plus entry- and exit stamp, which will be reduced to the stamps after the e-visa is introduced.
Laos registered an average annual growth rate in foreign tourist arrivals of 10.7 per cent between 2000 and 2015. In 2016, the country experienced its first major dip of ten per cent in arrivals to 4.23 million foreign visits, while international arrivals further dropped In 2017 to 3.8 million.
The government is targeting to increase the figure to at least five million this year with the Visit Laos Year 2018 campaign. The trend for this year has shown a slight uptick of three per cent in the first quarter.