‘Visit Laos Year 2018′ has been officially launched by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith during a ceremony last Saturday at That Luang Stupa.
The launch of ‘Visit Laos Year 2018’ coincides with the start of the annual That Luang festival which features a trade fair, a display of traditional houses, cultural performances and activities relating to traditional worship rituals at That Luang Stupa as well as cultural, religious and spiritual events.
During the ceremonial kickoff the PM struck a gong nine times to signify to invited guests from around the globe that ‘Visit Laos 2018’ had officially begun.
The Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Professor, Dr Bosengkham Vongdara also spoke at the event stating, “In recent years, the government of the Lao PDR has likewise come to regard tourism as a priority sector for driving socio-economic development.”
“Tourism brings spending on goods and services that can boost currency reserves and money flow and create more job opportunities for people in the service and production sectors, particularly agriculture and handicraft production.”
However, critics raised questions about how the government can best promote Laos to the rest of the world when the amount of information available is limited.
Though Laos has potential in offering experiences to international visitors, the country needs to improve accessibility (visa facilitation) and ensure more information is available, says Editor-in-Chief of e-Global Travel Media, Stephen Morton.
As an example, the event calendar related to festivals and activities must be readily available so that travelers can plan on attending those events.
Improvement of infrastructure and services including road access to tourist attractions and internet speed is also critical. The government has organized Visit Laos Year on two previous occasions – once in 1999-2000 and again in 2011-12 to encourage more tourists at home and abroad to visit sites within the country.
In 2000, tourist arrivals amounted to 737,208 people and generated income of US$113,898,285.
The figure jumped to 4,684,429 people in 2015, generating an estimated USD $725,365,681 in revenue. It is projected that tourist arrivals will reach about 6,206,423 visitors by 2020 and generate revenue amounting to USD $993,427,000.
With the launch of ‘Visit Laos Year 2018’, officials seek to attract at least 5 million tourist arrivals, generating an estimated USD $900 million in revenue.
The trade fair features more than 1,000 booths at two venues: Lao ITECC (460 booths) and That Luang Esplanade (640 booths).