Challenges remain for sustainable tourism growth
Although Laos has a robust and fast-growing tourism industry, the country faces challenges regarding the sector's sustainable development, according to a leading official.
Director General of the Tourism Marketing Department under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr SounhManivong, made the comment recently to Vientiane Times while attending a tourism seminar.
To address sustainability in the sector the government is prioritising the tourism development strategy for 2016-2020 and vision for 2030.
The United Nations has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development which will encourage the public and private sectors, and international organisations, to jointly make plans and promote tourism to ensure it moves closer to sustainability.
“Laos is focusing on three issues for tourism sustainability. Firstly, on tourist site development and traditional customs conservation which will highlight the nation's culture and the hospitality of our people,” Mr Sounh said.
“Secondly, we are focused on environmental protection which the government is always stressing, and thirdly on economic development to generate revenue from the tourism sector so that local people benefit through increased income,” he added.
But Mr Sounh said Laos faces many challenges in terms of human resources capability and hospitality staff need more training to meet international service standards.
In response the ministry is cooperating with the Ministry of Education and Sports and the National University of Laos to improve the tourism curriculum.
“In particular, we are implementing Asean standards, with the regional criteria containing 242 training benchmarks. Laos is initially focusing on 32 benchmarks and will then work through all of them,” he said.
“We will try to produce staff to meet the needs of the job market, but we face a funding shortage to carry out the required training. The government will try to allocate additional budget for this work and seek funding from international partners,” Mr Sounh said.
Another issue Laos faces is that it has fewer direct flights than neighbouring countries.
“It doesn't matter if Laos has many visitor attractions if people can't reach them,” he said.
To address this issue the government is endeavouring to implement an open skies policy under the Asean cooperation framework.
Last year, around 4.9 million people visited Laos and that number is expected to increase to over 5 million in 2017.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update January 30, 2017)