Laos to woo Chinese tourists

VIENTIANE, 7 January 2019: Laos has announced plans to draw more Chinese tourists to the landlocked country that stands at the heart of the Mekong Region.

Through what it calls a Visit Laos-China Year 2019, the campaign should be launched either late January, or during the Chinese New Year week-long holiday, 2 to 9 February, possibly on the actual New Year celebration day 5 February.

Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Bosengkham Vongdara, confirmed to the Vientiane Times that he has signed off on a plan for the Visit Laos-China Year 2019 programme.

It was subsequently submitted to Prime Minister, Thongloun Sisoulith, for consideration according to the ministry’s tourism marketing department director general, Sounh Manivong.

According to provisional plan, the grand opening of the year-long campaign, to encourage cultural and travel exchange between Laos and China, will take place at the National Culture Hall in central Vientiane.

According to the Vientiane Times report, it will feature cultural shows by Lao and Chinese troupes along with Lao and Chinese food fairs, and a photo exhibition.

High-level officials from both countries will be invited as guests of honour.

The Chinese side has asked for a Chinese Culture Week to be hosted in Vientiane in April, which would also mark the 58th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The week-long event should take place just prior to a planned state visit to China by Lao PDR President, Bounnhang Vorachit, when Lao cultural dance performers will stage a cultural show in Beijing.

In addition, a tourism management event will be hosted in June or July in Champassak province in southern Laos.

Another highlight of the year’s activities will be the celebration of the Moon Cake festival in September at the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang.

According to the plan, the two sides will also arrange a Lao Culture Week in Changsha – the capital of China’s Hunan province. The event will feature stage shows by Lao artists, a Lao food fair, a tourism exhibition and a seminar to promote Lao and Chinese tourism.

A similar Lao Culture Week will also be organised in Chengdu – the capital of China’s Sichuan province. However, the dates for these culture weeks have not yet been decided.

The minister of tourism has also recommended that the Lao government waive the visa requirement, or reduce the visa fee for Chinese visitors in 2019, to encourage travel.

He also called for an end to “inappropriate inspections and charges along roads and at tourist sites”, while suggesting tour operators should no longer be required to obtain a certificate before bringing in tour groups from China.

Around 568,800 Chinese travelled to Laos in the first nine months of 2018, an increase of 35% compared to the same period in 2017.

In 2017, the country welcomed 639,185 Chinese visitors making it the third largest supply market after first placed Thailand with 1,797,803 visits and Vietnam in second place with 998,400 visits.