A Disappointing Year 2016 for Lao Tourism

After Myanmar which recently announced a drop of 4% to 6% in total foreign arrivals last year, this is now Lao PDR to officially confirm that tourism dropped sharply last year. Total arrivals to the country should have been done by 10% according to a report from Laos national news agency KPL. The bad result is a consequence of a sharp contraction in total arrivals from Thailand and Vietnam, both being Laos top source markets.

Asked at the ASEAN Travel Forum about the reasons of the sharp contraction of arrivals from Thailand (around 12%), Lao National Tourism Administration remains vague about the negative evolution. “They were some shortage of capacities due to many festivals and events last year, which rebuked many Thai travellers”, explained officials from Lao National Tourism Administration. They are no explanation provided about the drop of Vietnamese travellers to Laos as well…

Originally, the country was expecting to receive five million international travellers. Total arrivals for last year should now reach between 4.2 and 4.3 million.

Measures taken last year such as opening up airports to more low cost airlines flights failed to stimulate tourism. While overseas travellers continued to progress last year in a range of 4% to 5%, Laos should then look at new ways to turn the country more attractive to its neighbours.

New products and new destinations could act as a major factor to attract neighbouring travellers while soft adventure teams and ecotourism could continue to be highlighted. Vientiane is on the verge to be turned into a more attractive city -for Asian travellers- as new shopping malls and luxury hotels are planned in Laos capital. More flights should also be proposed, particularly to secondary cities in ASEAN from both Luang Prabang and Vientiane. They are still no flights linking Laos to Japan, Myanmar or Yangon while flights to China are still limited to five cities. Surprisingly neither Beijing nor Shanghai are for now connected by non-stop services to Lao PDR. Time for a strategy overhaul!