VIENTIANE, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The number of foreign visitors to Laos totalled 3.86 million in 2017, a drop of 8.73 percent compared to 2016, according to statistics from the Tourist Development Department under Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
Visitors from Europe dropped by 27 percent to 161,192, while those from the Americas declined by 26 percent to 64,227 in 2017, local daily quoted the data from the ministry as saying on Wednesday.
Tourists from the nine other ASEAN member countries dropped by 11 percent to 2.74 million, while overall visitors from the Asia-Pacific region fell by 7 percent to 3.63 million.
Visitors from nearby countries including Thailand, the largest source of foreign tourists for Laos, went down by 11 percent or more than 200,000 people.
Meanwhile, visitors from Japan and South Korea, who are typically big spenders, fell by 35 percent to 32,064 and by 2 percent to 170,571, respectively.
Deputy Director of the Tourism Research and Administrative Division, Bounthavy Sisava, told Vientiane Times on Tuesday that officials are carrying out further analysis of the reasons for the slump in tourist arrivals.
"In my opinion, the main reasons are that some provinces don't have enough tourist attractions, services are still not good enough, and some tourism products are not up to the required standards," Bounthavy said.
"Laos also doesn't have strong enough policies to promote domestic travel within the country, unlike nearby nations that encourage their residents to holiday at home. Also, some of our foods and traditions are similar to those of nearby countries which may account for the drop in visitors from neighboring countries, a key market for Laos," he said.
But there was some positive news, with visitors from non-ASEAN countries increasing by 6 percent to 884,908, while visitors from Africa and the Middle East increased by 1 percent to 11,410.
To attract more visitors, the Lao government has launched Visit Laos Year 2018 which includes a multitude of activities and local festivals. Each province is holding festivities and other activities to welcome visitors highlighting local lifestyles, sports, and traditions as well as popular tourist sites to link with the promotional campaign.