Domestic Tourists in Laos Lured Away by Renewed International Travel

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Vang Vieng District in Vientiane Province is a popular destination for domestic tourists in Laos.
Vang Vieng District in Vientiane Province is a popular destination for domestic tourists in Laos.

With international borders recently reopened, high-volume domestic destinations such as Vang Vieng, which received an influx of domestic tourists during the pandemic, have begun to struggle.

Vang Vieng District Governor, Mr. Bounchan Malavong, said during an interview with Lao National Radio that despite an increase in visitors from South Korea and Thailand, the overall number of tourists arriving in Vang Vieng has fallen.

While in 2020, the Vientiane Province received some 261,000 visitors according to the 2020 Statistical Report on Tourism in Laos released by the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism (MICT), the numbers could have increased in 2021.

In February this year, provincial authorities said that more than 3,000 domestic tourists were recorded visiting Vang Vieng every week following the relaxation of Covid measures.

And getting to Vang Vieng is now easier than ever, with the launch of the Laos-China Railway and the Vang Vieng Expressway providing greater convenience for those traveling to the tourist town. 

However, Governor Bounchan says that economic problems and chronic fuel shortages have meant fewer domestic tourists have been making the trip to Vang Vieng in recent weeks.

At the same time, domestic tourists have turned to international destinations after spending almost three years locked in Laos. 

“My family visited Vang Vieng several times over the last two years while our country was closed.  Now I’d like to see something new,” one reader told the Laotian Times.

Reports from authorities at the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge recorded 1,812 people entering Thailand on the second day of border relaxation.

“I couldn’t wait to get back to the big shopping mall at Udon Thani,” said another Vientiane resident. 

“It is nice to make a family trip to Thailand where there is a greater variety of things to see and do.  We can also fill up on fuel while we are there,” he noted.

Pakin Tiabkam, head of customs control at Nong Khai Customs House, told Thai media that some 30,000 foreigners crossed the Nong Khai border checkpoint into Thailand from 9-31 May. 

Following the reopening of borders and resumption of flights, Laotians can now also access a number of regional cities from Vientiane Capital and Luang Prabang by air, including destinations such as Bangkok, Seoul, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. 

“Our family took our first trip to Phuket recently in over two years,” one expatriate told the Laotian Times in a phone interview.

“Vang Vieng is always a nice getaway but my children were thrilled to see the ocean again,” she said.