The number of Europeans visiting Laos is falling as the financial crisis in the region continues, according to the Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism.

Speaking to journalists in Vientiane on Tuesday, Mr Chaleune Warinthrasak said that whilst this was true, “the total number of tourists in Laos is not falling because we are now promoting tourism within Asean and the region, for the culture and natural scenic beauty we offer.”

This year the country is running the Visit Laos Year campaign to attract more tourists.

The growth of tourism benefits local people and will help those living in rural areas by providing much needed income to protect historic sites and natural attractions.

The revenue generated from tour groups will help the authorities to achieve their vision of sustainable tourism, which will protect the country’s cultural heritage and provide a better life for nearby rural communities.

Most visitors to Laos at the moment are coming from Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore with significant numbers also from Japan and the Republic of Korea.

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism is targeting 3.5 million tourist arrivals by 2015. That number would be expected to generate about US$500 million in revenue.

Mr Chaleune also said that last year more than 2.7 million tourists overall visited Laos, generating revenue of almost US$400 million. Next year, Laos will host the Asean Tourism Forum in Vientiane from January 17-24.

Director General of the ministry’s Tourism Marketing Department, Mr Saly Phimphinith, said people from the Republic of Korea consider Laos a popular tourist destination because they like to play golf here as it’s not expensive.

Golf tours from Korea are arriving in Laos on Lao Airlines flights three times per week.

Currently, about 70 percent of all visitors come from neighbouring countries, with only 30 percent from other regions.

“Half of the tourists in Laos are from Thailand. They like to come here because Lao and Thai people speak similar languages so they can understand each other without the need for interpreters,” Mr Saly pointed out.

According to the ministry, American people of Lao origin are returning in increasing numbers to tour the country.

“We have plans to attract more tourists from Europe and the USA because the income derived from these tourists is quite high,” he added.

Visitors from Europe and the USA spend about US$72 per day while people from neighbouring countries spend US$20-US$30 a day. “Actually, Laos hopes that many more people from Europe and the USA will come here because they contribute more,” Mr Saly said.

Source: Vientiane Times
By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
July 12, 2012