Lao Prime Minister Thongoun Sisoulith has advised the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism to use its time wisely in refurbishing and upgrading tourism sites in preparation for the country’s reopening after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The PM made the recommendation as he chaired the government ordinary meeting session held by video conference on 23 April.
With the tourism sector in almost complete shutdown due to the pandemic, the PM’s suggestion is in line with advice given by the National Economic Research Institute (NERI), which submitted a report suggesting the government promote greater investment in tourism.
The paper by NERI advised the government to use tourism downtime wisely by investing in the sector in preparation for future tourism by upgrading tourist attractions and boosting services to ensure they meet international standards.
According to some estimates, Laos’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to rise by only 3.3 percent in 2020 – the lowest rate in three and a half decades.
Tourist sites nationwide have been temporarily shut down, with international borders closed and flights grounded. Employees across the tourism sector are finding themselves unemployed or working one month on and one month off at best.
According to NERI, earnings of over USD 450,000 were lost during the first two months of this year when visitors from Laos’ major markets, China and Thailand, dropped by 16 and 5 percent, respectively.
Tourism is a key driver of the economy in Laos, making up some 13 percent of the country’s GDP.
The country has 1,314 officially listed natural sites, 591 cultural sites, and 294 historical sites, according to the Vientiane Times. Of these, 809 were operational at the beginning of this year, with a further 587 tourism sites under development.