Prof. Dr. Bosengkham Vongdara spoke,in exclusivity to ASEAN.travel during Paris Salon Mondial du Tourisme of the importance of France for Laos tourism and about the possibility to further open the country to international travellers.
Due to the Visit Laos Year 2018, Lao PDR is present at SMT (Salon Mondial du Tourisme) in Paris. Although the show is a B2C exhibition, Laotian authorities believes that it will help to strengthen the historical relations between France and Lao PDR. Laos Minister of Culture and Tourism Dr. Bosengkham Vongdara explains in exclusivity to ASEAN.Travel what Laos can expect from this presence in Paris.
Laos tourism authorities have not been back to France for at least a decade. And the presence of a large official delegation at Paris Salon Mondial du Tourisme (SMT) from March 15 to March 20. The show is not that important in Europe compared to ITB Berlin, Fitur in Madrid or WTM in London. It is exclusively dedicated to consumers and attracts slightly over 100,000 visitors of which 19% will buy tourism packages and products during the show.
Nevertheless, Lao PDR decision to be in Paris shows a renewed commitment towards France, Laos number one inbound market from Europe. Lao PDR received in 2016 (last available data) 222,000 European travellers with France alone generating 55,000 arrivals, a quarter of all European arrivals. “Our presence at SMT is a strong signal that we deeply value France as an important market source. But not only. They are deep relations with France as the country has been present for a long time as a colonial power. Although this is today history, it gives a special relation with a large Laotian community present here”, said Dr. Vongdara.
“Our participation to this travel will help promote more and more Laos into the French market. We want to have a long commitment and this is possible that we will continue to come every year to France,” added the Minister.
Laos has seen in the last three years shrinking numbers of foreign arrivals. While many countries in ASEAN opened their borders and simplified tourists’ entry procedures, the country has been slower to move in a similar direction. “Our Prime Minister is deeply committed to make tourism a stronghold of our economic development and his slogan now is the “Three Opening”: Open the country-Open the fences- Open our hearts towards foreign travellers. But they are still hurdles within the country that we try to dismantle step by step,” explained Dr. Bosengkham Vongdara.
The government is now looking at all the existing constraints which still impact a smooth welcome of tourists to Laos. The visa issue is still a major problem. “We are studying the possibility to exempt France and a few other European countries from visa requirement. We work hard at convincing other Ministers but I am positive over the outcome”,” promised the Minister.