Laos Tourism Missing its Five-Million Visitors Target in 2016

Laos tourism industry has been growing at a faster pace in recent years. From 2010 to 2015, total international arrivals grew from 2.51 million to 4.68 million, almost doubling in size. For 2016, authorities forecast to record a visitors’ growth of 15% to finally break the five-million foreign visitors’mark.

A series of positive developments in tourism last year were expecting to boost arrivals. New flights, the opening of Vientiane and Luang Prabang to low cost competition, the visit of US President Obama to the country – a first for an American president- put Laos under the international spotlight.

The first visit to Laos by US President Barack Obama in September helped to put the country in the global spotlight. Many more people now know about Laos and hope to visit.

However, year 2016 might end up with a rather decline in tourism. Figures from January to September 2016 communicated by the Ministry of Tourism show a sharp drop of 10% in total international arrivals. The country welcomed during that period of time only 3.14 million international visitors, compared to 3.48 million for the same period of 2015.

The disappointing result is due to a collapse of Thailand and Vietnam visitors to the country. Both are Laos two largest incoming travel sources. Thailand arrivals are down by 12% during the first nine months of last year reaching only a total 1.46 million compared to 1.67 in 2015. This is the second year in a row that the Thai market declines. From January to September 2014, Thai arrivals were still standing at over 2.3 million! The situation with Vietnam travellers is also worrying. From January to September 2016, Vietnamese arrivals reached only 0.76 million, down by 19%. The Chinese market did not help really to balance for the collapse of both Thai and Vietnamese travellers’ sources. Chinese arrivals into Laos grew only from January to September 2016 by 4% to reach 400,000 visitors.

However, Laos still enjoys healthy progression from Europe. Total visitors’ arrivals from Europe reached during the first nine months of last year 172,000, up by 10%

Luang Prabang is the top destination for all travellers to Laos, with 83 percent of visitors spending time in the northern town, followed by Vientiane. Germany is up by 21%, Italy by 19%, Russia by 14% and France – Laos largest European inbound market with 43,000 travellers until September- grew by 8%. India showed also strong growth this year with a jump of 65% in total arrivals during January to September 2016.

The high season- which started in November- might narrowing the gap with last year in arrivals. But nothing is sure as air fares out of Southeast Asia makes the competition very strong…