Luang Prabang Targets 1.7 Million Tourists Amid Heritage Preservation Concerns

Pha Daeng Peak in Luang Prabang. (Photo: ທ່ອງທ່ຽວຫຼວງພະບາງ)

Luang Prabang is set to dazzle visitors in Visit Laos Year 2024, aiming to attract both domestic and international visitors throughout the year. However, as the province also celebrates its 28th World Heritage anniversary, concerns loom over potential threats to its prestigious status.

With an ambitious lineup of over 40 activities, Luang Prabang has set a target of welcoming more than 1.7 million tourists. The province anticipates tourist spending exceeding USD 900 million, with a specific goal of attracting at least 1.4 million international visitors.

Boasting attractions like the Phou Si Stupa, Xieng Thong temple, Sae waterfall, Kuangsi waterfall, and a traditional night market, the UNESCO World Heritage Site has become a cultural haven. However, challenges emerge, including the disappearance of traditional structures in the protected old quarter due to new developments, over-tourism concerns, and the potential adverse effects of the new Luang Prabang hydropower dam.

A local government employee expressed concerns, highlighting a deviation from UNESCO guidelines, as reported by Nikkei Asia. The province faces a critical juncture in preserving its cultural and historical legacy amid the burgeoning tourism industry.

In 2023, Luang Prabang experienced a significant surge in visitors, welcoming over one million tourists—a 91.49 percent rise compared to 2022. This surge contributed to an estimated USD 560 million, drawing over 760,000 international visitors to the province.

This year, among the standout events planned are the Lighted Boat Festival, a Cultural and Tourism Week in collaboration with northwest provinces and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, a traditional food festival, a captivating handicraft exhibition, and engaging demonstrations showcasing the province’s unique customs.

Other events encompass a traditional music contest, a cycle race, the Boat Racing Festival, and the Lat Khang Kong fair, as unveiled by Deputy Governor Bounleum Manivong of Luang Prabang province on 15 January. Various districts in the province will also host tourist-centric events, each offering unique cultural experiences, from traditional festivals and exhibitions to boat races and a fireworks festival.