VIENTIANE, 4 January 2016: Lao PDR’s Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism estimates 4.3 million international tourists visited the country in 2015, representing an increase of 4%.
The government expects revenue from tourism in 2015 will reach USD670 million from 4.3 million estimated travellers.
Lao News Agency quoted the most recent official results saying international visits increased from 2.7 million in 2011 to 4.1 million in 2014 with revenue from the tourism sector jumped from USD400 million in 2011 to USD560 million in 2014.
The annual estimate for 2015, indicated that around 70% of tourists came from within the region, especially Thailand, while the other 30% come from Europe, America, Japan and Australia.
Meanwhile, there are now more tour companies than ever with an increase from 236 companies in 2011 to 342 companies in 2014. The number of hotels, guesthouses and resorts also jumped from 1,926 five years ago to 2,426 last year, the media report said.
Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism attributed the growth in tourism to improvements and developments of the sector following the improvement in organisational structure, which has resulted in a more systematic workflow.
However, the travel trade in Laos says the lack of current statistics and performance data makes it difficult to adapt in a timely fashion to marketing changes. They have repeatedly asked the ministry to improve its data collection and provide timely reports on where the market was heading, rather than offering a historical views that was dated more than one year.
The ministry talks about the country being named to the World’s Best Tourist Destination list in 2013 in its latest review and says ecotourism has improved constantly over recent years, without backing up its claims with data.
It hopes to stimulate tourism by improving ecotourism in rural areas, promoting sustainability, and supporting cooperation between state and private business in ecotourism development.
The Ministry of Public Works and Transport suggested the country needs to build new gateway airports or expand current airports substantially to stay competitive.
It has identified four airports; Wattay, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakse airports.
A new international airport must be built on the outskirts of Vientiane. Construction should begin in 2025 and be completed before 2030. It will be built to accommodate the world’s largest commercial aircraft including the A380.
The transport ministry has also recommended that new international airports be built in Champasak, Savannakhet and Luang Prabang.
The six domestic airports to be renovated are in the provinces of Oudomxay, Luang Namtha, Huaphan, Phongsaly, Xayaboury and Bolikhamsai.
Four regional airports are to be upgraded as international airports; Xieng Khuang, Bokeo, Seno of Savannakhet and Attapeu.