Overlanders boost Lao travel
BANGKOK, 19 March 2013: Lao PDR’s’ Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ Tourism Development Department reported international arrivals in 2012 soared 22% to close the year at 3.3 million visits.
The report released Monday showed 3,330,072 foreign tourists travelled to Laos, an increase of 22.27% over 2,723,564 visits in 2011.
Overland tourism and visits from ASEAN were the main contributing factors to the double digit growth.
Thailand was the top single supplier accounting for 58.19% share of all visits to the country. The market grew 22.64% supplying 1,937,612 tourists when compared to 1,579,941 visits in 2011.
The tourism boom between the two countries, especially overland travel, is driven by the opening of bridges across the Mekong River and more convenient checkpoint procedures. There are three bridges across Mekong River and the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Chiang Rai province will open this July.
The Thai Cabinet approved the fifth Friendship project at a cost of Bt2 billion. It will connect Thailand’s Bung Kan province and Laos’ Bolikhamxai province and will take three years to build. The road distance through Laos to Vietnam will be the shortest of all the east-west corridors.
Vietnam, the second leading market supplied 705,596 visits growing 25.64% from 561,586 visits.
Arrivals from other Asian countries and the Pacific reached 3,061,115 (+24.20%) with China leading with 199,857 trips and improving 32.54%. It shares a border with Laos and overland travel is expanding mainly to Luang Prabang, via the northwest town of Luang Namtha.
Other significant sources include South Korea, Japan and Australia.
Europe, which is facing an economic downturn, grew by just 2.35% (185,802) with some markets recording declines: Austria (-24.76%); Greece (-18.85%); Italy (-9.86%); and Spain (-9.54%).
Laos’ main suppliers from Europe were France (+5.64% to 46,903) and the United Kingdom (+10.04% to 23,417). However, Russia gained the most percentage increase at 23.12% with 8,642 visits.
Arrivals from the Americas were positive mainly from the United States and Canada. The average growth in 2012 was 8.37% (+6.56% from the US and +16.10% from Canada).
The smallest regional markets, Africa and the Middle East, dropped slightly by 1.08% to 7,304.