While Lao PDR launched its much expected Visit Year Laos 2018 with much fanfare in late October, so far special initiatives to promote and attract more tourists are still being expected. The only concrete step so far is the announcement to exempt Scandinavian travellers from visa requirements.
The four countries are Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and they join the current 15 countries which already benefit of a visa exemption when travelling to Lao PDR. European countries with a visa exemption were until now Luxemburg, Russia and Switzerland. The other countries are ASEAN members, Japan, South Korea and Mongolia.
Visitors from the four countries wanting can from now stay in Laos up to 15 days without a visa highlighted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a press release. The measure is however only valid during the time of the Visit Laos Year- which means that it would be finished at the end of 2018.
Collectively, some 17,510 citizens of Scandinavian countries visited Laos in 2016, an increase from the 16,468 visitors recorded the year before. The move is welcome but is far of the promises made by tourism officials a few months ago.
Director General of the Tourism Marketing Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Soun Manivong, welcomed the move. However, he was expecting a few months ago that more countries would have benefited of the measure- particularly important markets such as France, Germany, the UK or even the United States or Australia.
Generally, governments have been keen to introduce special incentives for foreign travellers during their respective Visit Year. Special events are also organised during a Visit Year. So far, Laos failed to present any specific event or initiative linked to the celebration of its Visit Year. Of course, beyond the visa exemption for the four Scandinavian countries. Could more initiative be announced during the coming ASEAN Travel Forum in Chiang Mai at the end of January?