Is Lao tourism suffer from high cost of living? Professionals in the tourism industry and even the government seem to think so.
During a regional tourism product development workshop in Vientiane, organised last week, participants came to the conclusion that the high cost of living remains a significant challenge for the tourism industry in Laos as spending for basic services such as taxis, food, and accommodation is higher than in neighbouring countries.
Slow service is also cited among the downsides of the tourism sector in Laos. “The tourism sector in Laos should develop integrated tourism products for visitors by ensuring that visitors can enjoy themselves, get a broad knowledge of Laos and its culture, seeing beautiful places, taste delicious cuisines, and expect safety and good transport,” Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Bouangeun Saphouvong told during the regional tourism workshop.
“The number of international tourists visiting Laos decreased by 10% from over 4.68 million in 2015 to 4.2 million last year. How can we solve this problem so that we can attract more visitors to Laos? The government has an ambitious vision to record over 6 million foreign visitors on an annual basis by 2020,” said Mr Bouangeun.
“Given the extremely high relevance of regional tourism for the Lao tourism market, how can we ensure that Lao companies and Laos as a country can maximise their benefits from this specific market segment?” asked Project Director of the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation’s (GIZ) Initiative for ASEAN Integration Kim Nguyen Van.
He noted that the improvement of existing and the development of additional regional tourism products would play a key role in this endeavour. “Using such regional products to link more Lao tourism destinations to highly attractive sites in neighbouring countries will generate higher numbers of visitor arrivals to the country, higher visitor expenditures and higher revenues for the Lao tourism sector”, he stated.
There are more than 1,960 tourist sites, including over 270 historical attractions, almost 540 cultural attractions and 1,145 natural tourist sites in Laos. However, only 700 of these tourist sites have been developed and introduced to the public.