NAKHON PHANOM, 28 June 2018: Lao PDR is considering a proposal to introduce an eVisa by the end of the year, or possibly in early 2019, according to a tourism official attending the Mekong Tourism Forum.
He said it was now highly likely that Laos would follow the lead of neighbouring Myanmar and Vietnam to introduce an eVisa to boost travel.
Reporting on travel trends this year, he said tourist arrivals had increased by 3% during the first quarter of the year.
“It’s a positive shift in performance,” he said, “after two disappointing years.”
Laos is in the midst of a Visit Year campaign that has been criticised for its lack of signature events, or campaign specific festivals.
Laos registered an average annual growth rate in foreign tourist arrivals of 10.7% between 2000 and 2015.
But in 2016, the country experienced its first major dip of 10% in arrivals on 4.23 million foreign visits.
In 2017, the decline continued with 3.86 million visits down by 8.7%, based on figures released by the country’s Tourist Development Department, Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism.
During preparations for the Visit Laos Year 2018, the country’s travel industry called for visa-free travel to boost arrivals during the special year, but requests were largely ignored at government level.
Introducing the Visit Laos Year campaign launched in October 2017 and due to end in December this year, the government hoped to reverse the negative trend. However, the Visit Laos Year budget was sparse and there was a lack of signature events and festivals specifically created for Visit Year celebrations.
“I believe we are seeing signs of recovery and if the eVisa can be introduced in the long-term it will benefit tourism and provide momentum for the growth,” the tourism officials explained.