Foreign tourist arrivals to Laos drops for the first time in 2016

Published on : Friday, March 17, 2017

Foreign tourist arrivals to Laos dropsAfter several successive years of visitor growth, the number of foreign tourist arrivals to Laos dropped for the first time in 2016, the Tourism Development Department of the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism stated.


Laos registered average annual growth in foreign tourist arrivals of 10.7 percent on average over the past five years. But last year, just over 4.23 million foreign visitors came to the Southeast Asian country, representing a drop of 10 percent compared to 2015, the department said Thursday.


Collectively, visitors from the other nine member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) dropped by about 14 percent to just over 3 million people. Tourists from the Asia-Pacific region decreased by 11 percent to just over 3.9 million people, while visitors from the Americas dropped by 3 percent to just 86,211 people.


Visitors from Thailand and Vietnam, the main sources of foreign visitors to Laos, fell significantly by more than 400,000 and 100,000 people respectively.


The drop in foreign tourist arrivals is being attributed to Thai authorities encouraging people to take tours in their homeland by offering special incentives, an official in charge of the department’s analysis section said. These included allowing Thai nationals who spend their vacation in the country to claim a reduction in their personal income tax corresponding to what they spent while on holiday.


The increasing cost of living in Laos could also be a reason for the decline, the official said, adding that living costs in neighboring countries like Thailand were lower than in Laos.


Additionally, the number of foreign tourists coming to Laos in the previous years was boosted by Vietnamese workers entering the country on tourist visas.
But governments within ASEAN, of which Laos is a member, have tightened measures to regulate foreign workers, which is believed to have discouraged Vietnamese workers from coming to Laos, thus contributing to a drop in the number of Vietnamese entering Laos on tourist visas, Lao daily Vientiane Times quoted the official as saying on Friday.


He also observed that Laos needs to do more to attract tourists from Muslim countries such as by providing prayer rooms in public places along with promoting halal restaurants, saying that the absence of such facilities, especially in the provinces, could discourage Muslims from visiting Laos.


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