VIENTIANE, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Lao tourism sector should work hard to improve its competitiveness and integrate more with other ASEAN countries in order to attract more international visitors, an official said Tuesday.
Hartmut Janus, Project Director of the Regional Economic Integration of Laos into ASEAN, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development project made the remarks while addressing the opening ceremony of a workshop on ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 in Lao capital Vientiane.
The translation of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 into a national action plan and its implementation are decisive for Laos, said Hartmut Janus.
"For Laos, the integration into regional ASEAN tourism is particularly important. The vast majority of tourism arrivals in Laos are from neighboring countries. However, the average length and spending of these sub-regional visitors are rather low. For visitors from Australia, America and Europe, Laos is often not yet a stand-alone destination," Janus said, quoted by Lao state-run news agency KPL.
The role of tourism sector in the socio-economic development in Laos is particularly relevant. The exports of the country are mainly accounted for by natural resources including mining, wood, and hydropower, which are rather capital intensive and do not create a large number of employment opportunities for Lao people, he said.
The number of overseas tourist arrivals in Laos decreased by 12 percent in the first three months of 2017, falling from 1.24 million people in the same period last year, according to Sounh Manivong, Director General of the Tourism Promotion Department under Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
The first quarter of 2017 saw an 11 percent year-on-year decrease in the number of ASEAN visitors coming to Laos, plunging from 866,000 people in the first quarter of 2016. Meanwhile the number of visitors from Europe, Americas, Africa and the Middle East showed a decrease of 29 percent, 30 percent and 29 percent respectively.
Last year, just over 4.23 million foreign visitors came to the Southeast Asian country, a drop of 10 percent compared to 2015.
ASEAN has envisaged that by 2025 it will become a quality tourism destination committed to responsible, sustainable, inclusive and balanced tourism development.
However, the challenges facing the sustainable development of quality tourism and its integration within the ASEAN economy are numerous. These include making cross border formalities more convenient and less costly, reducing the high cost of travel industry services in the region, increasing the participation of local communities in the tourism value chain, especially in the less developed yet tourism rich areas, and developing destinations that are inclusive, green and knowledge-based, according to KPL.