Entrance Fees Taking Toll on Champassak Tour Operators


The imposition of entrance fees to tourist sites in Champassak province is causing a downturn in visitor numbers, according to local tour operators.

As a result, some operators have halted their services while others still running are complaining about the decline in visitor numbers, blaming the fees.

Entrance fees are currently being collected from local and foreign visitors at World Heritage-listed Vat Phou Champassak and at the Phasuam and Khonephapheng waterfalls.

A hotel operator in Champassak, who did not wish to be named, told Vientiane Times on Thursday that tour operators can still conduct tours but are shying away from the main attractions because of the entry fees.

“Some tour companies have suspended services because the lack of visitors is making their businesses unviable,” she said.

“This year we are encouraging visitors to go to Nheuan, Fan, Phasuam, Nong Luang, Champee Nang Sida, and Lakpaed waterfalls, along with Don Nong Luang waterfall, which are all beautiful spots that tourists can enjoy,” she added.

“Some tour operators have commented that it’s acceptable for tourist sites to collect fees, but visitors shouldn’t have to pay 50,000 kip at Vat Phou,” the hotel operator said.

To add to their woes local operators are finding the going tough because they can’t compete with the lower prices of tour packages.

Thai tourists like to visit Vat Phou and Khonephapheng Waterfall, whereas visitors from Europe and the US prefer Khong district and the waterfalls in Pakxong district.

According to the Management Office at the Vat Phou World Heritage Site, about 600,000 tourists visit Champassak, but only about 100,000 people make it to Vat Phou each year.

Deputy Director of the Management Office, Mr Amphol Sengphachanh, said it was possible that newly introduced road tolls on the road leading to the province from Thailand were having a negative impact on visitor numbers.

But an official from the provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mrs Mala Chanthalam, said the sheer number of tourist sites now available was giving visitors more attractions to choose from.

Overall, the total number of foreign tourist arrivals in Laos increased from 2.7 million people in 2011 to 4.1 million last year.


Source: Vientiane Times