The tourism sector is now the second largest income earner in Laos after the mining sector, according to a recent tourism statistics report.

Given the significance of the tourism sector, which generated about US$514 million in 2012, the government is committed to further developing facilities and service sector staff to attract more overseas visitors to Laos.

Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Chaleune Warinthrasak, told Vientiane Times last week the tourism industry has played an increasing role in the development of Laos and in reducing poverty.

He believed the World’s Best Tourist Destination for 2013 Award conferred on Laos by the European Council on Tourism and Trade last week would help to make Laos an even more popular tourist destination.

Laos has a population of just over 6 million people, and the number of tourist arrivals amounted to about half this figure in 2012, up 22 percent compared to the previous year.

The number of tourist arrivals has increased continuously since the government launched the “Visit Laos Year” campaign in 1999-2000, despite the recent global economic downturn.

In 2006, 1.2 million people visited Laos, rising to 1.6 million in 2008 and to 2 million in 2009, before rising to 2.5 million in 2010, 2.7 million in 2011, and 3.3 million in 2012.

The government estimates that the number of tourist arrivals could reach 3.58 million next year, 3.74 million in 2015, and 4.5 million people in 2020.

To achieve the goal of 3.74 million visitors in 2015, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism has outlined seven priority programmes.

The programmes include developing essential infrastructure at tourist sites and encouraging more business operators to cater for visitors, while an international promotional campaign will highlight the many attractions that Laos has to offer.

There will be training and development for government staff working in the tourism sector, as well as management training for business operators. Efforts will also be made to improve the skills of workers in the industry and the quality of the services they provide.

Tourism officials have said the sector employs at least 20,000 people and helps to generate income in poorer communities.

Laos is an attractive destination for many reasons, including its natural beauty, rich cultural traditions and political stability.

The country is now becoming more closely connected with the rest of the region as new roads and bridges are built across the Mekong River.

Lao Airlines now flies to more countries in the region to facilitate travel by tourists.

Source: Vientiane Times
May 13, 2013