The Lao government is targeting more international visitor arrivals until the end of this year with numerous incentives, a promotional tourism campaign, and policy updates.

The move follows the recent release of the new Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecast which showed the country’s economic growth remaining moderate this year and next year as expansion in the industry and services sectors softened in the first half of this year due to fewer foreign travellers.

In response to questions asked by local media about tourism promotion during the launch of the Asian Development Outlook Update 2019 in Vientiane last week, ADB Public Management Specialist for the Lao PDR Rattanatay Luanglatbandith said tourism was considered to be a critical factor for economic growth.

“Several key elements are required for tourism promotion in Laos – infrastructure development, tourism campaign investment and regulation of entry fees at tourist sites,” he said.

He explained that Laos has tremendous potential for natural, cultural and historical tourism, but to capitalise on this the government needed to improve infrastructure, promote tourism and properly manage admission fees at tourist sites.

“For example, road access to tourist sites must enable easy access. Basic and essential facilities should be available and admission fees should be a one-time payment so that visitors aren’t having to constantly dip into their pockets,” Rattanatay said.

Most importantly, the government needs a marketing campaign via internationally-recognised media platforms such as BBC or other broadcasting companies that have millions of viewers, he suggested.

However, the government has been actively working with its development partners to promote tourism over the past year.

Last year, Visit Laos Year 2018 was a success and this year the Visit Laos-China Year 2019 campaign was launched, aiming to attract one million Chinese tourists and about 4.5 million visitors overall.

During his keynote address at the 2nd Sustainable Tourism Solutions Expo 2019 held in Vientiane on September 27-28, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Bosengkham Vongdara said Visit Laos Year 2018 had resulted in 4.2 million foreign tourist arrivals.

“This figure was an increase of 8.2 per cent from 2017 and Visit Laos-China Year 2019 is targeting at least 4.5 million tourist arrivals,” he said.

Tourist arrivals in the first half of this year were recorded at more than 2.2 million, an increase of five per cent compared to the same period last year, the ministry’s data shows.

Chinese visitors were the largest in number among all foreign tourists, followed by Thai, Vietnamese, South Korean and other nationals, the minister reported at the expo.