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Luang Prabang Sees Unexpected Dip In Tourism Growth

Source: Vientiane Times

Although more tourists visited Luang Prabang province this year than ever before, the rate of growth has not been as high as anticipated, a senior tourism official has noted.

Director of the Luang Prabang provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Onechan Souvannalit, told Vientiane Times yesterday that much more needs to be done in terms of marketing and creating confidence among international tourists, to encourage them to visit the World Heritage town.

The town has become increasingly popular since UNESCO inscribed it on the list of World Heritage Sites in 1995.

“The number of tourist arrivals in the province reached 500,000 people in 2015 and we expected that the figure would increase to about 600,000 people this year,” he said.

The plan set by the province targeted at least 600,000 tourist arrivals, but the industry has seen slower growth than expected due to a number of factors including storms, security and poor road conditions.

“We must work harder when it comes to tourism promotion and improve road access to tourist sites. We also need to encourage local residents to keep the town and tourist sites clean, as well as protect forests in catchment areas,” Mr Onechan said.

He said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to help improve the province’s road network and local authorities are working with villagers to protect forests and tourist sites.

On the positive side, more events have been organised or are on the drawing board for Luang Prabang this year.

Next month leaders from 10 countries will gather in Luang Prabang for the 15th meeting of the Asean Socio-Cultural Community Council. They will not only attend the meeting but also take the opportunity to experience this wonderful and lively city.

Also of significance is that more direct flights are now operating between Luang Prabang and other cities in the region.

Thai AirAsia launched flights to Luang Prabang from Bangkok on March 24 – the first low-cost airline to break a virtual ban on budget airlines flying to the town .

Singapore’s SilkAir will launch three weekly flights to Vientiane and Luang Prabang from October 31. Another low cost carrier, HK Express, has also stated that it plans to operate flights to Luang Prabang by the end of 2016, providing Laos with its first nonstop link from Hong Kong.

Luang Prabang is the top destination for all travellers to Laos, with 83 percent of visitors citing it as their first choice, followed by Vientiane.

Tourists mainly visit temples, admire the architecture, make trips to waterfalls and caves, and observe the lifestyle of local people.

Luang Prabang was awarded a gold medal after being voted World Top City by readers of the British travel magazine Wanderlust in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.