The government of Laos has begun to consider opening its borders to certain groups if the right conditions can be met and vaccination rates continue to rise.
A number of stakeholders have begun working with the government in drafting plans for the reopening of tourism, with support from international organizations and a push from the private sector moving the tourism agenda forward.
The UNDP launched its Tourism Recovery Roadmap in Lao PDR on 21 October, which maps out how the tourism sector could recover until 2025, seeking support for domestic tourism by building on the Lao Thiao Lao campaign, the negotiation of regional travel bubbles, and a health and hygiene program for the sector.
Meanwhile, the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) has brought together private sector stakeholders in encouraging reopening the country for tourism, appealing to the government to consider reopening to help revive the national economy.
So far, the government has suggested that a national vaccination rate of 50% of the population would be required before any form of international tourism would be permitted.
Golf Tours May Kickstart Lao Tourism
The most promising beginning for tourism, however, is a plan to allow fully vaccinated South Korean visitors to enter Laos under luxury golf tour packages.
Vientiane Times quoted Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Ounthuang Khaophan, as saying that his ministry is asking the government to allow vaccinated South Koreans to play golf in Vientiane at the end of the year.
“We are working with the relevant sectors to determine the requirements and prepare for vaccinated Korean visitors,” he said.
Under the plan, Lao Airlines, as well as three other airlines including Air Asia, T’way Air, and Jeju Air, would operate charter flights to and from South Korea’s Incheon Airport.
Fully vaccinated Korean golfers would then enter Laos and enjoy a nine-day golfing package that would allow them to golf at two courses in Vientiane Capital.
The tourists would be restricted to one hotel and one restaurant and would be shuttled from hotel to golf course by private bus, under the supervision of one Lao and one Korean guide.
Requirements for entry under the plan would include a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to departure, as well as a test upon entry at Wattay International Airport.
Vaccination Key to Reopening
With a target of 50% of its population fully vaccinated before borders can be opened, Laos still has a long way to go.
The country has now vaccinated just 37.47% of the total population, placing it ahead of Indonesia, Philippines, and Myanmar among ASEAN nations, but well behind Cambodia, which has surged ahead, reaching 80%.
At the same time, Thailand has made headlines internationally by announcing the reopening of its borders while its own vaccination rate falls short of 50%, providing a positive example to other countries in the region as they strive to revive their ailing tourism sectors.