The charm of the country is not enough anymore to attract and retain visitors. Laos is learning the lesson and wants to improve its tourism industry while tourist arrivals continued to decline by over 10% during the first quarter of 2017.
Experts have urged the Lao tourism sector to improve its competitiveness in order to attract more international visitors.
Addressing the opening ceremony of an information dissemination workshop on the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 in Vientiane on Jun 20, Hartmut Janus, Project Director of the Regional Economic Integration of Laos into ASEAN, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development project noted that the translation of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 into a national action plan and its implementation are decisive for Laos.
“For Laos, the integration into regional ASEAN tourism is particularly important. The vast majority of tourism arrivals in Laos are from neighboring countries. However, the average length and spending of these sub-regional visitors are rather low. For visitors from Australia, America and Europe, Laos is often not yet a stand-alone destination,” said Mr Janus.
The role of the tourism sector in the socio-economic development in Laos is particularly relevant. The exports of the country are mainly accounted for by natural resources: mining, wood, and hydropower, which are rather capital intensive and do not create a large number of employment opportunities for the Lao people.
The number of overseas tourist arrivals in Laos decreased by 12 percent in the first three months of 2017, falling from 1.24 million people in the same period last year to 1.11 million people this year, according to Sounh Manivong, Director General of the Tourism Promotion Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
The first quarter of 2017 saw an 11 percent decrease in the number of ASEAN visitors coming to Laos, plunging from 866,000 people in the first quarter of 2016 to 763,000 people in the same period this year.
Meanwhile the number of visitors from Europe, Americas, and Africa and the Middle East showed a decrease of 29 percent, 30 percent and 29 percent respectively.
ASEAN has envisaged that by 2025 it will become a quality tourism destination offering a unique, diverse ASEAN experience, and will be committed to responsible, sustainable, inclusive and balanced tourism development, so as to contribute significantly to the socio-economic well-being of people in the region.
However, the challenges facing the sustainable development of quality tourism and its integration within the ASEAN economy are numerous.