Social Media Users Call for Boost in Safety Measures Amidst Tourism Growth

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Social Media Users Call for Boost in Safety Measures Amidst Tourism Growth
Foreign tourists taking photos of sunset (photo: JCLaos)

Laos was known to be one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia, but things seem to have taken a slightly different turn in recent years. With an increasing influx of foreign visitors, a rising concern about the country’s crime rate has emerged, echoing through various voices on social media.

“The country is on its way to promote the Visit Lao Year campaign, but thieves and robbers are walking freely. I haven’t heard a single news story saying that the authorities have arrested any of these wrongdoers,” a Facebook user commented on a post about a recent robbery case.

As the country enters the Visit Lao Year Campaign 2024, a series of incidents in Vang Vieng, Vientiane Province, have prompted social media users to call for immediate attention to safety concerns.

On 2 January, a male French tourist fell victim to a robbery as he was cycling around town with his family. Two assailants on a motorbike targeted the family, making off with a bag containing USD 157.6, a camera, four passports, and two ATM cards.

Prompt reporting by the hotel where the family was staying failed to lead to the apprehension of the perpetrators, who are still at large. The tourists, highlighting the crucial need to recover their passports, have ignited an ongoing investigation into the incident.

On the following day, another incident occurred in Vang Vieng, culminating in the tragic death of a Korean national. The tourist was driving a buggy when the vehicle lost control, flipped over, and tragically resulted in a fatal accident.

Concerns flooded social media as users pointed fingers at the poorly maintained roads in the district, holding them accountable for the unfortunate event. One Facebook user added,

“Vang Vieng’s main revenue comes from tourism, but, seriously, they have to improve the quality of the roads more.”

“There has to be some guides in place that tell the tourists about the speed they should be driving vehicles on certain roads in Vang Vieng to prevent this kind of accident from happening,” wrote another user.

The timing of these events, back-to-back, in a region heavily reliant on tourism, has sparked calls for increased security measures and improved infrastructure.

While the concerns remain, Vientiane Province has set its sights on an ambitious tourism goal for 2024, with the aim of drawing in 1 million visitors.

In 2023, the province welcomed 800,000 international and domestic visitors, with Vang Vieng district alone welcoming over 600,000 tourists, while Feuang district also saw a peak in popularity.

With Visit Laos Year 2024 on the run, Vang Vieng district currently boasts over 150 accommodation options, providing capacity for at least 13,000 guests per day.

However, after the recent incidents, tourists and locals alike are urging authorities to not only apprehend wrongdoers responsible for crimes but also invest in road quality and implement measures to guide tourists on safe driving practices. As tourism remains one of the primary sources of revenue in Laos, the need for comprehensive measures to safeguard visitors has never been more apparent.

Additional reporting by Chono Lapuekou