SPECIAL ATF: Laos Looks at Turning its Visit Year 2018 into a Real Boon for Tourism

Laos, Visit Laos

Laos launched at the end of last year its Visit Laos Year 2018. However, the country still needs to fine tune its tourism marketing strategy around this event…

With much fanfare, Laos launched in October last year its new campaign to attract more travellers under the banner of its Visit Laos Year 2018. Although the ‘Visit Year’ just started, it seems already that tourism authorities struggle to bring excitement to the event and consequently lure more travellers into the country.

“We need time to implement our program”, admits Lao Tourism Deputy Director General Bounlap Douangphoumy. Laos tourism marketing team actually believes that results of the campaign might mostly be visible next year rather than in 2018.

According to him, activities towards professionals will be centered around promoting the Visit Year in trade shows. “Beside the ATF, we will have a team with our Vice Minister visiting ITB Berlin but also to be present at SMT in Paris and WTM in London. In Asia, we will concentrate our effort on Japan, Korea and China where we will present at trade events as well as at ITB Singapore”, he explained.

Bounlap Douangphoumy, Deputy Director General, Tourism Marketing Department Laos

What could however expect tourists visiting the country during that special year? “We put all of our festivals under the Visit Laos Year banner with special events”, added Bounlap Douangphoumy… Last year, Laos tourism authorities unveiled that they might be some changes in the visa regime to boost arrivals. However, so far, only Scandinavian countries have been entitled to enter the country without a visa. What about other important markets such as the UK, France, the USA or Australia? “Our tourism minister and our administration approached many times our Prime Minister on the visa issue to relax the rules- at least for the Visit Year. We should make a “surprise” announcement in the weeks to come”, promised the Deputy Director General…

Could also Chinese travellers be entitled to a free-of-charge visa on arrival? “We do not have the human resources to cope with a high number of Chinese travellers that such a scheme would generate. Our country could not meet the demand from huge number of visitors from China. I do not think that a visa exemption measure towards China would likely be implemented”, told Bounlap Douangphoumy.

Another task will be also to look at pricing for tourists. “We recognise that prices for food are generally more expensive than in other countries. We now look at taking measures to lower restaurant prices to attract more visitors”, the Deputy Director added.

There is however still a need to make the Visit Year campaign more visible to consumers by also creating the buzz around Laos just to raise awareness among world travellers. The government has set a target of five million international travellers in 2018. This would be a sharp u-turn to the current trend.

In 2017, total arrivals declined by 10% for the second consecutive year to reach some 3.85 million travellers…This means that almost a million travellers vanished between 2015 and 2017. Back to 2015, Laos tourism reached a high with 4.68 million international arrivals.