Luang Prabang, in Laos, was crowded with visitors from around Laos and overseas over the New Year holiday, building local people’s hopes of a resurgence in tourism in the world heritage town.
To entertain visitors, the city arranged a number of activities including concerts in the town centre while some temples in the former Lao capital offered New Year blessings for tourists.
Hotels and restaurants were colourfully decorated with Christmas trees, creating a festive atmosphere. Many hotels, especially those in the town centre, were fully booked from December 28 to January 1.
“There are a lot of tourists this year but still fewer compared to the same period in previous years,” said a Luang Prabang resident who was selling flowers in front of the National Museum.
The woman, who has been selling flowers for more than 15 years to people wanting to worship Buddha, said that despite the lower numbers, the surge over the New Year holiday was a positive sign for the growth of tourism in Luang Prabang.
Local guides said they had noticed a change in the type of tourists, pointing to an increase in the number of Asian visitors, especially from Thailand, China and South Korea.
They said they would have to adjust their operating methods to accommodate the change in order to stay competitive, adding that many travel agencies were hiring more Chinese and South Korean tour guides.
A resident of nearby Chomphet district said he had witnessed an unusual increase in the number of Thai tourists this year, adding that many liked to visit the old town to see the Buddhist temples and pay respect to ancient Buddha images as they believed this would bring them good luck throughout 2020.
He said one of the main reasons that Luang Prabang was attractive to Thai tourists was improved transport routes between the city and Thai provinces located along the Lao-Thai border.
There is a new road connecting Luang Prabang to the Thai province of Nan over a distance of about 120km. It takes about three hours to travel from the Thai border to Luang Prabang.
Another option for Thai visitors is the Loei province-Xayaboury-Luang Prabang route. This covers a distance of about 250km with a travel time of four to five hours from the Lao-Thai border to Luang Prabang.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK