Speech by Thonglor Duangsavanh,
Editor in Chief of Lao Press in Foreign Languages to the forum titled
Consumption Upgrading and Tourism Development at the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation
Media Summit on 02/07/2018, Don Chan Palace, Vientiane, Lao PDR.
Your Excellency, Savankhone Razmountry Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism
Distinguished representatives of media organisations from the six Mekong-Lancang countries;
Ladies and gentlemen;
It is my honour and privilege to be granted this opportunity to present and discuss the topic "Consumption Upgrading and Tourism Development" at this Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Media Summit today.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
1. Tourism promotion policy
When talking about tourism, one may have visual images and experiences of this in multiple ways such as personal experience through one's own eyes, or watching items on television, a mobile phone or other electronic devices.
In order to promote tourism, the Lao government has determined it to be a strategic sector in its short and long-term national socio-economic development plans.
Current promotion mainly focuses on cultural, historical and natural tourism. As this effort is closely linked to the development of other sectors, tourism promotion in Laos is colourful and able to attract the participation of Lao ethnic people, towards becoming a comprehensive industry that is sustainable. In addition to this tourism promotion policy, the Lao PDR has a Tourism Law, which was approved by the National Assembly in 2005 and amended in 2013.
2. Tourism activities, infrastructure and tourist site development in recent years
The Lao PDR has hosted a Visit Laos Year on two previous occasions: first in 1999-2000 and again in 2011 to 2012. Since the introduction of these programmes, the number of tourist arrivals has gradually increased. In 2015, the number reached more than 4.6 million. As a result, tourism revenue also jumped significantly, to as much as US$725 million in the same year, becoming the country's third largest export earner.
In 2017, the number of tourist arrivals hit 3,868,431. Of this number, most visitors were from Thailand, followed by Vietnam, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, Germany, and Malaysia respectively.
This year, Laos has set a target of at least 5 million tourists, generating revenue of about US$900 million. In 2020, tourist arrivals are projected to reach 6.2 million, generating an estimated income of about US$993 million.
From 2016 to 2025, Asean has developed a strategic tourism development plan. This plan is based on a concept that is designed to transform Asean into a regional tourist destination - one that is amply qualified, unique, diverse, responsible, sustainable, and based on community participation and equality. This is to ensure that the tourism industry makes a significant contribution to Asean socio-economic prosperity.
- Infrastructure and tourist site development
Transport infrastructure: Laos has developed gateways to neighbouring countries. At present, there are 23 immigration checkpoints, of which 22 can issue visas on arrival. In addition, the citizens of 19 countries are exempt from a visa requirement. Laos has three international airports and six domestic airports. The country has eight aviation firms and flight connections to 18 cities in 7 countries.
Tourist sites: According to 2017 statistics, Laos has 2,014 officially designated tourist sites nationwide. Of this number, 1,194 are nature-based, 628 are culture-based and 282 are history-based. In 2016, the country had 546 hotels, and 2,452 resorts and guesthouses. There are also 381 travel agencies.
Luang Prabang was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Vat Phou Champassak received the same recognition in 2016, and in 2017 UNESCO declared the music of the Lao khaen to be an intangible cultural heritage.
In addition, Laos is submitting proposals to UNESCO for the listing of the Phou Hin Nam Nor stone forest, the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang province, and the traditional lamvong dance as forms of world heritage that are worthy of preservation.
Among the most popular tourist sites in Laos are the That Luang stupa, the Patouxay monument, Vat Sisaket, Horphakeo, Vat Xiengthong, the Kkhonephapheng waterfall, Vangvieng, Nam Kat Yorlapha, and the caves in Huaphan province that housed the revolutionary leaders during the war. Laos also has a number of colourful festivals that draw many tourists, such as the That Luang Festival, Vat Phou Champassak Festival, the Elephant Festival, Rocket Festival and of course the exuberant Lao New Year Festival.
Human resource development: The National University of Laos has a department that offers courses in ecotourism. There are also a national travel and hotel institute, a media institute and socio-cultural institutes, which employ several hundred staff.
Public relations: In order to encourage local and foreign tourists to travel and experience Laos' special traditions and antiquities, Lao media including print, TV, radio and social media are running columns and programs that are specifically designed to extensively promote tourism and festivals.
3. Consumption upgrading
To attract more tourists to Laos, encourage them to stay longer and spend more, or in other words to upgrade tourism consumption among local and foreign tourists, I think there are both internal and external factors that can influence the outcome.
- Improve basic infrastructure to facilitate the exit and entry of tourists. This includes transport facilities to ensure the convenient and safe travel of tourists.
- Improve service standards at hotels and guesthouses as well as the proficiency of tourist guides. In addition, service prices must be cheap while food and drinks must also be cheap and safe.
- Establish mechanisms and coordination points to facilitate the exchange of tourism information, and do more to eliminate barriers to tourism connectivity at all levels nationwide. This aims to provide a quick response if tourists encounter problems.
- Establish mechanisms to support discussion among the relevant agencies, officials and travel firms so they can reach common ground on addressing problems in the future.
- Host welcomes tourist ceremonies, which are based on a spirit of friendship and the fine traditions of Laos.
- Partner with tourism businesses to host regular activities that create opportunities to discuss and share lessons and experiences. This will ensure the improvement of tourism services and enable the application of new technologies and innovations for the development of the tourism industry. The upgrade of tourism services will provide visitors with new and enjoyable experiences so they are happy and satisfied.
- Join hands with other Mekong-Lancang countries to connect their tourism industries based on the concept of the ring model in line with the One Belt, One Road initiative, in particular the connection of the Laos-China railway to other Asean countries. All of this will facilitate the entry and exit of Chinese and Asean tourists.
- Enhance cooperation between the state and private sectors and civil society in planning, operating and coordinating, so they can provide a quick response and ensure the security and safety of tourists.
- Enhance promotion and marketing through the establishment of mechanisms to ensure the continuation and qualified and colourful content of promotion. In addition, promotion must be done through multiple channels so that it can widely cover and reach targeted audiences. Communication tools include print, TV, radio, social media, still pictures, video, lights, and feature articles.
- In addition, encourage more foreign tourists to visit Laos, and more Lao people to travel to foreign countries, so the number continually increases.
These include as follows:
- The socio-economic situation in the region, world and targeted countries.
- Level of relationship with the targeted countries. This depends on whether the targeted countries have policies to facilitate tourists to visit Laos, for example visa exemptions and extensions.
- Trends and popularity of the targeted countries that want their tourists to visit Laos.
- Conditions and environment of the targeted countries and whether they want their tourists to visit Laos, for example shared borders and relationship.
Ladies and gentlemen;
I would like to call on the media from the six Mekong-Lancang countries to make the most of the potential offered by the media, to join hands with each other to promote tourism in the member countries and boost travel within the region, as well as encouraging tourists from third countries to visit the region.
Last but not least, I wish all honoured guests participating in the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Media Summit every happiness in the future, good health, and success in achieving your goals. I very much look forward to your comments and suggestions.