Nestled amid the green landscapes of Southeast Asia, Laos finds itself at the epicenter of an extraordinary tourism surge, statistics by the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism revealed.
The first nine months of this year have seen an astonishing influx of more than 2.4 million foreign tourists, marking a jaw-dropping 285 percent increase compared to the same period last year. This is a testament to Laos’s growing appeal on the global stage.
According to the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism, ASEAN countries contributed over 1.6 million tourists, with substantial numbers from the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, and the US.
This influx is attributed to improved accessibility facilitated by faster travel on highways and the Laos-China railway, which has become a popular means of transportation. But contrary to expectations, local tourist groups believe the majority of visitors came from Western countries.
“Most tourists this year came from America or Europe. We didn’t see as many visitors from Asia as expected,” said Soutthisak Sayasavanh, tour director at Discover Laos Today, a leading travel company in Laos. “We look forward to next year. I hope many more tourists will come visit Laos.”
While data shows outstanding growth in tourism across the country, according to Soutthisak, the world heritage city of Luang Prabang saw a lower influx of visitors compared to 2022.
“Last year was better for the tourism industry in Luang Prabang, I think. Visitors rushed here right after COVID-19,” he said. “2023 seems to be a little quieter.”
While Luang Prabang may be welcoming fewer visitors, less popular tourism destinations are experiencing fast growth. The emerging idea of “dispersed tourism” is gaining traction in the region. This fresh approach entails exploring less frequented destinations, especially in rural areas, where the allure lies in the natural beauty. In the southern part of Laos, for instance, the cluster of Four Thousand Islands captivates travelers with its stunning scenery and cascading waterfalls.
The promotion of new tourism destinations is also part of the Lao government’s strategy for the upcoming Visit Laos Year 2024 and the country’s ASEAN chairmanship in 2024.
The government and local businesses have been collaborating to boost tourism through international exhibitions and ASEAN tourism fairs. With a target of 4.6 million visitors, Laos aims to generate USD 712 million in revenue in 2024. Previous campaigns, including Visit Laos Years and Visit Laos-China Year, saw significant success, with Visit Laos Year 2018 witnessing a rise to 4.1 million arrivals (8.2 percent increase from 2017) and Visit Laos-China Year 2019 welcoming 4.58 million visitors, a 9 percent increase from the previous year.
Laos is also teaming up with the International Finance Corporation on a project to create a green city plan for Vientiane Capital. The goal is to set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, implement regional policies, and prioritize projects to turn Vientiane Capital into a low-carbon and climate-resilient city by 2030.
With a target of 4.6 million tourists and a revenue goal of USD 712 million for the next year, Laos is stepping onto the global stage with confidence.