The Lao government will pay greater attention to developing policies that promote investment in tourism projects based on the country’s special attractions, according to a government leader.
Speaking at the National Assembly recently, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Somdy Duangdy said that next year the government will convert more areas of natural beauty, along with places of historical and cultural interest, into appealing tourist destinations.
These places are unique to Laos and reflect the country’s intrinsic identity, and the government believes that a focus on such places will attract more tourists, according to Somdy.
He said one of the key government projects next year will be to pursue its application to Unesco to list the Plain of Jars as a world heritage site, in addition to the existing world heritage sites of Luang Prabang and Wat Phu Champasak.
A focus on Laos’ natural and cultural assets will help the government protect the country’s culture and national identity, and the special places that are essentially Lao.
But while the government is well intentioned in its efforts to make the best use of Laos’ natural and cultural attractions, tourism operators say this policy is too broad and provides no concrete commitment for potential investors.
They say the government has been reiterating this stance for several years, but the exact incentives and promotion policies for this business category are not yet known.
Association of Travel Agents owner Inthy Duansavanh told Vientiane Times recently that tourism operators have trouble when it comes to using forested land for tourism because of unclear and inappropriate concession fees.
He said the government applied natural resource usage fees to tourism companies at the same rate applied to hydropower and mining companies, which did not support the promotion of tourism.
Inthy said the government should apply different natural resource usage fees to different businesses, especially those operating in tourism, which does not cause serious damage to Laos’ natural beauty.
The development of ecotourism in forest areas should be promoted because it would enable the government to earn revenue without harming the environment, he added.
In addition, low-key forms of tourism, such as ecotourism, help protect local cultures and lifestyles while providing local people with a source of income.
Laos and China are now making plans for Visit Laos-China Year 2019 with a special focus on the Chinese market, which has grown considerably in recent years.
Officials are hoping this will make up for the shortfall in tourist arrivals this year, which failed to reach the target figure of five million people. VIENTIANE TIMES/ANN