Laos: Tourism industry on the road to recovery

Many businesses have begun to recover since the government relaxed Covid-19 restrictions in the middle of this year and tourists began returning to Laos, according to a business representative.
“At present, businesses which are doing well and growing fast are related to tourism,” the Vice President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Daovone Phachanthavong, said on Tuesday.
He spoke to the Vientiane Times to discuss the overall picture of business activities in Laos since the government decided to fully reopen the country in May, which saw the return of foreign tourists and business operators.
Mr Daovone said the opening of the Laos-China Railway at the end of last year also helped to boost tourism, as improved transport made it easier for tourists to travel in Laos. “Tourism businesses in towns along the railway from Vangvieng, Luang Prabang and up to the Chinese border are booming now,” he said, adding that he had learnt from the business community in Luang Prabang that there were sometimes food shortages due to the huge influx of visitors.
Most foreign tourists come from neighbouring countries, especially Thailand and Vietnam. Tourists from South Korea are also at the top of the foreign visitor list, he added.
Mr Daovone said that when China relaxes its Covid-19 controls and allows people to travel outside of the country, Laos will be in a good position to receive Chinese tourists due to improved transport links between Laos and China.
According to Mr Daovone, apart from tourism, another successful area of business, despite the current economic problems, is agribusiness for the purposes of export.
In October, the export value of agricultural produce was estimated at around US$300-400 million.
Cattle farms are enjoying success thanks to the high demand for cattle from China and Vietnam, Mr Daovone said, adding that Xayaboury province is taking the lead in this sector.
People in Laos have a lot of experience in cattle farming, but the challenge for them now is to turn this into a business opportunity. Mr Daovone said cattle farming required strong support from experienced operators who knew how to run a successful business.
Cattle farmers did not just need a large area of suitable land, he added, but must also be able to produce feed for their herds.
Mr Daovone said the construction industry had been hardest hit by the Covid pandemic and the economic downturn and that it would take some time for the industry to recover. To create conditions conducive to successful business operations, he advised the government to keep its business environment reform agenda on track, adding that government officials should view business operators as partners.
“If businesspeople can make more profit, the government will earn more in taxes,” he said.