Laos: Provinces suffer tourist slump as pandemic deepens
The number of domestic and foreign tourists visiting the provinces declined drastically last year compared to the same period of 2019 due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Champassak province received just over 117,000 visitors, down about 90 percent compared to 2019, an official from the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Mr Soulichan Sombathduang, told Vientiane Times on Tuesday.
But despite the severe drop in visitor nunbers the province will forge ahead with efforts to revive tourism and upgrade visitor attractions in a bid to draw more visitors in the future.
Provincial authorities will also explore the possibility of turning other locations into new tourist destinations, Mr Soulichan said.
Champassak will also work with health officials to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at tourist sites, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses.
Luang Prabang province recorded 275,647 visitors in 2020, of whom foreigners accounted for 142,435, down by 68 percent compared to 2019.
The number of visitors has plummeted due to international travel restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. However, the province is hopeful that tourism will pick up this year and is aiming for a target of 283,000 visitors in 2021, according to the Luang Prabang provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department.
Department Director Dr Soudaphone Khomthavong told Vientiane Times that most hotels and guesthouses have been trying to attract visitors by discounting room rates and placing a focus on cleanliness and safety at tourist sites.
Provincial authorities are planning events to attract more Lao visitors, such as a folk art programme which will be held in Luang Prabang city from February 6-8. The event will feature street food, handicrafts, games for children, and fashion shows, and will shine a spotlight on traditional activities and products. Entrance will be free.
Vangvieng district, Vientiane province, was also affected by the pandemic and last year received just over 80,000 tourists – a drop of about 35 percent.
However, district authorities are hopeful that more people will visit the riverside hotspot this year and are targeting a figure of at least 300,000 Lao visitors. If the pandemic subsides, Vangvieng hopes to see at least 500,000 Lao and foreign tourists, district governor Mr Bounchan Malavong said.
Oudomxay province is another area that has suffered from a dramatic decline in visitor numbers and last year only just over 100,000 Lao and foreign tourists visited the province – a drop of about 40 percent compared to the figure for 2019.
Deputy Head of the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Mr Bounkuan Mitmeuangxay, said Oudomxay would speed up improvements to accommodation, organise new activities and improve the quality of service in order to attract more visitors this year.