Laos is preparing to launch its “Visit Laos Year 2018” to promote the tourism industry and revive interest in the country at a time when visits are declining.
Lao News Agency quoted Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism’s Tourism Marketing Department general director, Sounh Manivong, said the Visit Laos Year 2018 launch would take place this November to coincide with the That Luang festival.
Well-known celebrations in each province of Laos will be highlighted at the launch ceremony including the Blossom Festival in Bokeo, the Elephant Festival in Sayaboury, and the Lao New Year celebration in Luang Prabang.
The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism is in a process of recommending that the government create more favourable conditions for foreign visitors to visit Laos, the report added.
A timetable of monthly events in every province is under consideration. Publications featuring events will be released soon, according to Tourism Minister Bosengkham Vongdara.
Provincial authorities were asked to brainstorm ideas to make the Visit Laos Year a success.
Laos last held a Visit Laos Year in 1999 focusing on the country’s culture, traditions, ethnic lifestyles, and historical and natural attractions.
This time round the Visit Year is viewed as a tool to reverse a decline in tourist arrivals that set in last year. Officials are hoping that visa entry will be eased, possibly with visa-free travel for non-Asean nationalities.
But to make the year a success a review of pricing may be needed as tour operators complain the cost of holidaying in Laos in higher than in neighouring Thailand.
The tourism ministry reported the country attracted 1.11 million international tourists during January to March, this year, a decrease of 12% from 1.24 million visits during the same period last year.
The first quarter of 2017 saw 763,000 visits from ASEAN markets, which represented an 11% decrease when compared with 866,000 visits in the first quarter of 2016.
Tourists from Europe recorded almost 60,000, down 29%, followed by almost 20,000 visits from the Americas (-30%) and 2,100 visits from Africa and the Middle East (-29%).
Thailand, which has dominated the list of foreign visits to Laos for several years, showed a decrease of 13% from 573,000 visits to 498,000 visits for Q1 this year.
In 2016, tourist arrivals reached over 4.2 million, which was a decrease 10% from over 4.6 million in 2015. During 2016, revenue reached USD724 million, a slight reduction from USD725 million revenue in 2015.
The country says it should reach 4.8 million tourists and earn USD843 million this year, and by 2025 tourists will reach 7.5 million with over USD1.3 billion in revenue.