Laos is seriously looking at proposing e-visa for travellers coming for tourism purposes by the end of the year or latest by early 2019. However free visa on arrivals for more Western countries do not seem to make any progress…
According to the newspaper Vientiane Times, electronic visa (E-visa) services are set to be offered at the end of this year or early next year in a move to attract more foreign tourists to take vacations in Laos.
Authorities in charge are accelerating procedures and related works preparing for the launch of the online E-visa service, a senior official of the Consular Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Vientiane Times a few weeks ago.
Only foreign tourists will be eligible to apply for Laos’ entry visa online. Business travellers and officials will be further required to apply for entry visas from Lao embassies and consulates as normal, according to the official. “Initially, we will offer the E-visa services just for tourists and draw lessons from the implementation of the E-visa scheme,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
Currently, visas are available at 22 international border checkpoints across the country or by going to an embassy. Still five international border checkpoints do not provide visas on arrival. Service at the border is sometimes tarnished by some officers asking for additional money. The e-visa would definitely eliminate this kind of issue.
The e-visa will also help solving the problem linked to the absence of embassies in some countries. “Lao embassies or consulates are not available in many countries making it particularly inconvenient for tourists from those countries wanting to visit Laos,” the official said. Laos has 39 diplomatic representative offices made up of 26 embassies, three permanent representative offices, nine general consulates and one consulate office, as well as 17 honorary consulates abroad.
Director General of the Tourism Marketing Department, Ministry of Information Culture and Tourism, Mr Soun Manivong welcomed the E-visa scheme, saying it will add more convenience for foreign tourists. He said the visa on arrival system has provided much convenience to foreigners; however, some who have never been to Laos still do not know if visa on arrival services are available.
However, the possibility of offering to more countries free visa on arrivals -as announced prior to the launching of the Visit Laos Year 2018, did not so far materialized and many observers doubt that it might now happen.
In 2017, Laos registered 3.8 million international visitor arrivals and the government is targeting to increase the figure to at least five million this year with the Visit Laos Year 2018 campaign.