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Laos mirroring int’l trend with crash in visitor numbers

Global tourist arrivals are expected drop by 60-80 percent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with local officials predicting a similar outcome in Laos.
International visitor arrivals declined by 65 percent or 440 million in the first half of the year, according to a report by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Foreign visitor arrivals in Laos were recorded at 886,447 in the first six months of 2020, a drop of 60 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the National Economic Research Institute.

The UNWTO stated that global revenues from the tourism industry plummetted by US$460 billion in January-June. Asia and the Pacific, the first region to feel the impact of Covid-19 on tourism, was the hardest hit, with a 72 percent fall in tourists during this six-month period.
In Europe, tourist arrivals dropped by 66 percent in the first six months of this year, while the Americas saw a fall of 55 percent, and Africa and the Middle East experienced a 57 percent decline.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said “The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy.”
In Laos, the slump in tourism has not only affected businesses but is having a huge impact on the country’s overall revenue as well as the earnings of local people.
Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Ounthuang Khaophanh, told Vientiane Times that if the border remains closed, the number of foreign tourists visiting Laos could fall below one million this year.
Laos had set a target of 5 million foreign visitors in 2020 but the global health and economic crisis resulted in severe travel restrictions and a widespread slump in the country’s tourism industry. 
In 2019, Laos welcomed 4.58 million international visitors, representing visitor growth of 9 percent compared to 2018.
Mr Ounthuang said it was a challenge to pursue any kind of tourism campaign or activities because authorities had been urged to comply with government guidelines on Covid-19.
Some festivals and events that had been planned for 2020 had been postponed or cancelled in a bid to prevent a second wave of the virus.
But Mr Ounthuang was optimistic that if the virus could be contained and travel restrictions were removed, people would begin to travel again and spend more on their holidays.
According to a survey by the UNWTO Panel of Experts, domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand.
Experts expect to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020, but mostly in 2021. Experience gained from previous similar situations indicates that tourism and travel are likely to recover quickly, especially with regard to people visiting friends and relatives, and business travel.
Since tourism is a main income earner for Laos, the government regards the leisure industry as a priority for driving economic growth, largely through job creation.
Tourism is a form of export from home and generates income for communities in remote regions that would otherwise struggle to earn revenue.

By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update
September 22,

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