The number of tourists visiting Laos could reach 4 million this year if new arrivals keep flocking to the country despite the current political instability in the region and in the world.
Professor Bosengkham Vongdara, the minister of information, culture and tourism, expressed his confidence in the projection on Thursday when delivering a lecture for ministry officials and civil servants on the resolution of the eighth plenary session of the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party.
“Based on the continued flow of foreign tourists to the country, I think it will be possible that the number of foreign tourists will reach 4 million this year,” he said.
More than 3.7 million foreign tourists visited Laos last year, generating around US$596 million (Bt19.2 billion) in revenue for the country.
Neighbouring Thailand was the major channel for foreign tourists to enter Laos, especially people from Europe, but Thailand is now in the midst of a political transition.
Bosengkham did not give an up-to-date number of arrivals that would corroborate his forecast but he said the increased number of visitors from China to the northern provinces would compensate for any fall in arrivals from neighbouring Thailand.
He said tourist facilities in the northern provinces of Laos had been improved, including the provision of signs written in Chinese and increased parking spaces, as Chinese often travel with their families in private cars.
“We have created convenient conditions, so the numbers of Chinese tourists visiting the country have been increasing,” Bosengkham said.
The Laotian government is currently targeting high-end tourists, with a focus on those from Europe and North America.
The minister has not mentioned whether the number of tourists from those two continents will be maintained and thereby guarantee stable income flows to the tourism sector.
However, he referred to information from within China that around 400 million Chinese were expected to travel abroad this year.
Bosengkham also reminded those present that Chinese people are compulsive shoppers when they travel.