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Preserve natural environment and culture, PM advises 

Laos should preserve and protect its natural environment and its cultural traditions if the country wants to attract more foreign visitors.
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has called on authorities to intensify their efforts to preserve Laos’ scenic beauty, which is considered key to the development of tourism.
Speaking to officials from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism recently, Mr Thongloun highlighted some of Laos’ natural wonders, saying these attract a huge number of tourists annually.
“The tourism sector has been developing rapidly over past years. People-participatory tourism activities have gained in popularity,” he said.
Mr Thongloun congratulated the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism for its success in efforts to register the Plain of Jars as a new world heritage site.
Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Ounthuang Khaophanh, told Vientiane Times on Monday that he supported the prime minister’s ideas and was committed to working with other sectors to protect the natural environment and the country’s cultural heritage.
“Nature and our fine culture are our selling points,” he said. “However, one of the most important things for us is to develop new tourism products to entice more overseas visitors.”
When asked about the preservation of Vientiane’s old (inner) city, Mr Ounthuang said the ministry had registered old buildings in the city centre.
But critics are very concerned about rapid and unrestrained development in the capital.
They say that if more tall buildings are erected in the old quarter, which is arguably the most popular area with tourists because of its narrow streets and historic charm, it could destroy the very thing that makes this location so attractive.      
One of the topics of public debate these days is how Laos can balance development with the preservation of the natural landscape, culture and heritage, which are significant draws for the tourism industry. 
Tourism generates considerable income, which not only boosts economic growth but also helps to alleviate poverty in areas where alternative sources of income are scarce.
Through the Visit Laos Year 2018 campaign, the government hopes to attract at least 5 million people and generate revenue of about US$900 million this year.   
The government calculates that tourist arrivals will reach 6,206,423 by 2020 and generate income of US$993,427,000.
Tourism is a rapidly growing industry in many countries. Governments are focusing on the development and promotion of tourism as they consider it to be a priority for socio-economic development. 
The Lao government increasingly regards tourism as a priority for driving economic growth, especially by generating jobs. Tourism is a form of export and can bolster incomes in remote regions.
Mr Ounthuang is committed to pushing for greater development and promotion of tourism in a bid to attract more visitors.
He said tourism authorities will work closely with businesses to improve services as well as partner with other sectors to facilitate border crossings and ensure security for visitors.   

By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update
March 8,

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