Doubts over projected 2016 tourist arrivals
Last year's projected visitor numbers may not reach their target as arrivals for January to September actually decreased compared to the same period in 2015, initial figures indicate.
Overall, foreign visitor arrivals have dramatically increased in recent years. The number was just over 2.7 million in 2011, about 3.3 million in 2012, around 3.8 million in 2013, and rose to 4.1 million in 2014.
Around 3.5 million foreign visitors arrived in the nine months of January to September 2015, as part of the total 4.7 million arrivals for the whole year, and generated US$725 million in revenue.
Based on this, the government had expected that some 4.7 million foreign nationals would visit Laos last year. But this goal may not be achieved following a report by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism's Department of Tourism Development, which recorded the number of arrivals at about 3.1 million for January to September last year.
This represents a shortfall of about 340,000 arrivals during the nine months last year compared to the same period in 2015. Averaging out the monthly figures at 350,000 each month means the final total for 2016 will be about 4.1 million.
The department had predicted that about 5 million tourists would come to Laos in 2016. October, November and December are included in the tourism high season.
Thais make up the majority of foreign visitors to Laos. The number of Vietnamese visitors decreased by 19 percent, while Chinese and Japanese arrivals increased by four and 21 percent respectively. Arrivals from Europe and the Americas increased by 10 and six percent respectively.
The government has projected 5 million foreign visitors in 2017, 5.3 million in 2018, 5.7 million for 2019, around 6 million in 2020, and 8.1 million in 2025.
The decrease in the number of arrivals from countries such as Japan and Australia in 2014 and 2015 has been tabled for discussion at the ministry's annual meeting, which continues today.
Transportation costs, food pri ces, and the cost of other services in Laos, which are higher than in neighbouring countries, were given as reasons for foreign tourists selecting neighbouring countries as holiday destinations.
By Somxay Sengdara
(Latest Update January 31, 2017)