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Laos Tourism Industry Soars with over 200% Increase in Tourist Arrivals

Source: Ths Star

Laos welcomed more than 1.1 million foreign visitors in the first four months of 2023, representing an increase of 204 percent compared to the same period in 2022.

The largest number of visitors came from Thailand with 430,979, followed by 224,461 from Vietnam and 223,350 from China.

The sharp increase in the number of foreign tourists follows the full revival of international travel in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the travel options offered by the China-Laos Railway, Lao Minister of Planning and Investment Khamjane Vongphosy said at the fifth ordinary session of the National Assembly (Ninth Legislature) of Laos on Monday.

Some 1.6 million domestic and foreign tourists took trips in Laos in the first four months of 2023, representing a major increase over the number of tourists recorded in the same period of 2022.

More than 485,000 of them were Lao nationals, accounting for 81 percent of the half-year target. The Lao government hopes the figure will rise to 600,000 in the first six months of 2023.

Laos recorded 1,294,388 tourists visiting the country in 2022. Most international visitors came from Thailand, Vietnam, China, South Korea and the United States, according to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

“Our tourism town has been very quiet for a few years because of the pandemic. Now there are a lot of tourists, especially during the weekend. I am delighted to see an increase of both domestic and international visitors,” Khampha, a food vendor in Vangvieng, a tourism town in Vientiane province, told Xinhua on Sunday.

Laos is placing its hopes on the China-Laos Railway as a means of transporting tourists to some of the country’s most popular attractions, Phonemaly Inthaphome, director of the Tourism Development Department under the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, said at a meeting held on June 8 to discuss the Visit Laos Year 2024.

Sengxay, an employee at a store selling tour packages in Vangvieng, told Xinhua last Sunday that there had been a noticeable uptick in visitors since the China-Laos Railway came into service in 2021 and the Lao government reopened the country to foreign travel in May 2022.

“Not only Lao people, but many foreign tourists are also excited to take a train traveling in Laos,” he said.

The railway is a very popular means of transport and passes through the provinces of Luang Prabang and Oudomxay, which have many places of interest to tourists in northern Laos.

“After experiencing adventurous activities in Vangvieng, many people take a train to Luang Prabang to enjoy a small charming town surrounded by rivers and mountains, and its ancient temples and scenic rural landscapes,” Sengxay said.

The start of cross-border services on the China-Laos Railway increased the arrival of tourists from China. The Lao government expects that China’s resumption of outbound group tours will be a strong boost to the Southeast Asian country’s tourism industry.

As the China-Laos Railway serves as a crucial tourism infrastructure, Lao authorities estimated that around 368,000 Chinese travelers will visit Laos in 2023, up 21 percent from last year.

Speaking at a meeting on preparations for Chinese tourists held on May 26, Lao Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Ounthuang Khaophan said the Chinese tourism market is a great source of revenue and because of this, many countries have been engaged in promotion schemes to attract Chinese tourists.

A huge boost to the growth of this market is the China-Laos Railway, which enables fast and convenient travel between Laos and China, while more flights between Lao capital Vientiane and a number of Chinese cities are opening up, further facilitating international travel, Ounthuang said.

Tourism authorities and operators in Laos have improved services at hotels, guesthouses and restaurants, and added more facilities at tourist sites to provide more convenience for visitors.

In addition, the Lao government has organized promotional campaigns to attract tourists, including Visit Laos-China Year and Lao Thiao Lao (Lao Visit Laos program), attracting many visitors, especially from China.

In 2023, the Lao government has made tourism a top priority in efforts to revitalize the economy and aims to attract at least 1.4 million foreign tourists.