VIENTIANE, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- China is set to become a key market for the Lao tourism industry as official data shows that the number of Chinese visiting the country has risen significantly over the past six years, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Wednesday.
According to the Statistical Report on Tourism in Laos 2017, the number of Chinese visitors has seen consistent growth since 2012, suggesting that China will become a key market for the domestic tourism industry.
In 2012, only 200,000 Chinese tourists visited Laos, increasing to 245,000 in 2013, to 422,440 in 2014, 511,436 in 2015, 545,493 in 2016, and rising to 639,185 last year.
The growth rate in 2017 was 17 percent higher than the previous year, said the report.
Lao tourism officials acknowledged this positive trend and expressed confidence that the number of Chinese visitors to Laos will continue to increase due to enhanced regional connectivity.
"In 2017, we saw a drop in visitors from every market, with the only exception being China, with a 17.2 percent increase in visitors compared to 2016," a tourism official was quoted as saying in the Statistical Report on Tourism in Laos 2017.
The growth in Chinese visitors increased China's share of tourist arrivals from just 6 percent in 2013 to 16 percent in 2017, according to the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism's Tourism Development Department.
Traditionally, the Lao tourism industry has been dominated by visitors from ASEAN countries, mainly Thailand and Vietnam, the data showed.
In 2013, the share of Thai tourist arrivals was 54 percent, but this dropped to 46 percent in 2017. The share of Vietnamese tourist arrivals also dropped from 24 percent in 2013 to 23 percent in 2017.
Based on an analysis of this trend and other developments, it is very likely that Chinese tourist arrivals will account for a bigger share of the Lao tourism market. This is due to the emerging middle class in China. Chinese people are becoming wealthier and this will enable them to travel around the region, including the Mekong countries.
Laos is building a railway from its border with China to the capital Vientiane. Improved land transport connectivity will lead to more Chinese tourists coming to Laos. Laos has numerous tourist destinations that can attract Chinese travelers, including the world heritage sites of Luang Prabang and Vat Phou Champassak. Laos also has many scenic attractions and places of cultural interest, according to the daily.