Tourism arrivals in Laos down by almost 10% this year

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Buddha Park near Vientiane © Arno Maierbrugger

In a stark contrast to its regional peers, where tourism is booming, Laos was faced with a drop in tourism arrivals by 9.1 per cent in the first nine months of the year.

The number of foreign tourists in declined in the period to just over 2.88 million people. While Chinese were the only nationality whose numbers increased by around five per cent to 429,000, this couldn’t make up for the overall drop, according to the latest statistics from the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

Tourist numbers from all the other major regions took a dive, following a decline in tourist arrivals last year after many consecutive years of rising numbers. The number of visitors from ASEAN countries dropped by seven percent to just over 2.1 million people, while visitors from two other major regions – Europe and the US – fell by 34 per cent and 35 per cent to 113,982 and 43,224 people, respectively.

Laos has also witnessed a considerable drop in the number of high-end tourists from countries such as South Korea, Japan and Germany by 17 per cent, 38 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively.

Thai nationals continued to dominate the Lao tourist market share. Although the number of Thais vacationing in Laos fell by seven per cent to just over 1.3 million people, Thais accounted for almost 48 per cent of overall foreign tourist arrivals.

Foreign tourist arrivals for the whole of 2017 are expected to fall by 11.2 per cent compared to 2016, following last year’s drop of ten per cent.

Lao authorities blame the global economic slowdown and uncertain situations in many parts of the world for the decline in foreign tourist arrivals. This, however, does not explain the surge in tourism in junta-ruled Thailand or in troubled Myanmar.

The Deputy Director of the Tourism Research and Administration Division under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Bounthavy Sisava, also said that the “relative high cost of living” in Laos could also be blamed for the decline in tourist arrivals.

However, experienced travelers to Southeast Asia say that there are homemade problems as well, most of all poor touristic infrastructure in terms of roads and accommodation, lack of tourist activities, underdeveloped facilities at tourist sites, difficulties to find ATMs and pay by credit card, unreliable and slow Internet connections, as well as the absence of direct flights beyond Southeast and East Asia.

Additionally, the number of foreigners entering Laos in previous years was boosted by Vietnamese workers entering the country on tourist visas and finding work illegally. Laos, in line with ASEAN efforts, has been strictly enforcing measures to regulate foreign workers, which reflecting a decrease in the number of Vietnamese arrivals in Laos on tourist visas.

However, in an effort to bring in more tourists in the years to come, the Lao government has launched Visit Laos Year 2018 which officially began on October 28, with the aim of “promoting the nation to the world” and set an emphasis on cultural tourism and ecotourism.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Buddha Park near Vientiane © Arno Maierbrugger

In a stark contrast to its regional peers, where tourism is booming, Laos was faced with a drop in tourism arrivals by 9.1 per cent in the first nine months of the year.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Buddha Park near Vientiane © Arno Maierbrugger

In a stark contrast to its regional peers, where tourism is booming, Laos was faced with a drop in tourism arrivals by 9.1 per cent in the first nine months of the year.

The number of foreign tourists in declined in the period to just over 2.88 million people. While Chinese were the only nationality whose numbers increased by around five per cent to 429,000, this couldn’t make up for the overall drop, according to the latest statistics from the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

Tourist numbers from all the other major regions took a dive, following a decline in tourist arrivals last year after many consecutive years of rising numbers. The number of visitors from ASEAN countries dropped by seven percent to just over 2.1 million people, while visitors from two other major regions – Europe and the US – fell by 34 per cent and 35 per cent to 113,982 and 43,224 people, respectively.

Laos has also witnessed a considerable drop in the number of high-end tourists from countries such as South Korea, Japan and Germany by 17 per cent, 38 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively.

Thai nationals continued to dominate the Lao tourist market share. Although the number of Thais vacationing in Laos fell by seven per cent to just over 1.3 million people, Thais accounted for almost 48 per cent of overall foreign tourist arrivals.

Foreign tourist arrivals for the whole of 2017 are expected to fall by 11.2 per cent compared to 2016, following last year’s drop of ten per cent.

Lao authorities blame the global economic slowdown and uncertain situations in many parts of the world for the decline in foreign tourist arrivals. This, however, does not explain the surge in tourism in junta-ruled Thailand or in troubled Myanmar.

The Deputy Director of the Tourism Research and Administration Division under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Bounthavy Sisava, also said that the “relative high cost of living” in Laos could also be blamed for the decline in tourist arrivals.

However, experienced travelers to Southeast Asia say that there are homemade problems as well, most of all poor touristic infrastructure in terms of roads and accommodation, lack of tourist activities, underdeveloped facilities at tourist sites, difficulties to find ATMs and pay by credit card, unreliable and slow Internet connections, as well as the absence of direct flights beyond Southeast and East Asia.

Additionally, the number of foreigners entering Laos in previous years was boosted by Vietnamese workers entering the country on tourist visas and finding work illegally. Laos, in line with ASEAN efforts, has been strictly enforcing measures to regulate foreign workers, which reflecting a decrease in the number of Vietnamese arrivals in Laos on tourist visas.

However, in an effort to bring in more tourists in the years to come, the Lao government has launched Visit Laos Year 2018 which officially began on October 28, with the aim of “promoting the nation to the world” and set an emphasis on cultural tourism and ecotourism.

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