Nepal to reach 4m in tourist arrivals, minister says

The number of tourists visiting Laos will possibly reach four million this year if new arrivals keep flocking to the country sessopm despite the current political instability in the region and in the world.

Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara expressed his confidence in the projection yesterday when delivering a lecture for ministry officials and civil servants on the resolution of the eight plenary session of the Party Central Committee.

"Based on the continued flow of foreign tourists to the country, I think it will possible that the number of foreign tourists will reach four million this year," Dr Bosengkham said.

More than 3.7 million foreign tourists visited Laos last year, who generated around US$596 million (S$744 million) in revenue for the country.

Neighbouring Thailand was the major channel for foreign tourists, especially the tourists from Europe to enter Laos, but the country is now in the midst of a political transition.

Dr Bosengkham did not give the up-to-date number of arrivals which would corroborate his forecast but he pointed out that the increased number of visitors from China to the northern provinces would compensate for any fall in arrivals from neighbouring Thailand.

He said tourist facilities in the northern provinces had been improved, including the provision of signs written in Mandarin language and increased parking spaces as Chinese often travel with their families via private car.

"We have created convenient conditions so the numbers of Chinese tourists visiting the country have been increasing," Dr Bosengkham said.

The Lao government is currently targeting to attract high-end tourists with a focus on tourists from Europe and America.

The minister has not mentioned whether the number of tourists from the two continents will be maintained and thereby guarantee stable income flows to the tourism sector.

However, he referred to information from within China that around 400 million Chinese were expected to travel abroad this year.

Dr Bosengkham also reminded those present that Chinese people were compulsive shoppers when they travel.