THE Lao government estimates that the revenue earned from foreign visitors will be $876 million this year, a drop of 2.63 per cent compared to last year.
The government had targeted five million tourist arrivals last year and income of $900 million but the latest estimate shows that only 4.18 million people visited Laos. A report on the final figure has yet to be presented, according to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
The number of people visiting Laos last year increased by 8.2 per cent compared to 2017, with most coming from Thailand, Vietnam and China.
The number of tourists from Thailand increased by seven per cent compared to 2017, with visitor numbers from China rising by 26 per cent. In contrast, the number of visitors from Vietnam dropped by three per cent.
In 2017, the number of tourists from Thailand reached 1.79 million people, rising by 1.92 million people last year. The number of Chinese visitors rose from 639,000 to 800,000 last year, while visitors from Vietnam dropped from 891,600 people to 867,580.
The average number of tourists from the Asia-Pacific region last year increased by about nine per cent compared to 2017, rising from 3.63 million people to 3.94 million people.
The number of visitors from Europe increased by three per cent from 161,192 people to 165,808 and from the US by eight per cent, with the figure rising from 64,227 to 69,100 people.
Tourist numbers from Africa and the Middle East fell 32 per cent, from 13,565 to 9,264 people.
Tourism is one of Laos’ major income earners. In 2015, Laos received 4.6 million visitors, which helped generate $725 million, but dropped slightly a year later in 2016, earning $724 million from 4.2 million tourists.
In 2017, the government expected that 4.8 million people would visit Laos, contributing $843 million to the budget. But the number of arrivals totalled only 3.86 million, 8.73 per cent less than in 2016.
The tourism industry is not only playing a significant role in boosting economic growth, but is also creating a huge number of jobs for local people.
Tourism is one of the top five income earners, driving economic growth and contributing to poverty alleviation, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism said.
In addition, tourism has resulted in the improvement of services and infrastructure, including roads, as well as the construction of new hotels, restaurants, airports and other facilities.
Improving the tourism sector will enable Laos to gain much-needed additional revenue.
The growth of the tourism sector is also key to the development of tourism-related infrastructure, such as airports and road links.
In 2017, the total contribution from travel and tourism to Laos’ GDP was around $2 billion, which accounted for 13.7 per cent of total GDP. This figure is expected to rise to $3.3 billion by 2028. VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK