Visit Laos-China Year, a great opportunity to showcase nation’s charm

Visit Laos-China Year 2019 is a golden opportunity for Laos to showcase its many attractions and benefit from tourism in many ways.
Experts say the lessons learnt from Visit Laos Year 2018 will give the relevant sectors some great ideas for running an effective Visit Laos-China Year campaign.
The official launch of Visit Laos-China Year will take place in Vientiane tomorrow. It’s an attempt to lure more foreign visitors to Laos, especially from China, as the region can deliver a potentially huge number of visitors.
Statistics show that the places of most interest to Chinese tourists relate to Laos’ history, culture and natural beauty, and the country has many such sites to offer.
The task for Laos now is to provide information about tourism, because many Chinese people don’t know much about Laos or where to go if they come here.
The improvement of services and infrastructure is important because tourists need convenience, easy transport and good service.
Better people-to-people communication is another urgent need. We need more Chinese-speaking tour guides, while signs at tourist sites and menus in restaurants should include the Chinese language, as well as Lao and English.         
Fortunately, Laos and China are geographically close and share a border. Transport links are convenient for people from both countries as there are daily direct flights operated by Lao Airlines and China Airlines.       
In 2018 the number of Chinese visitors to Laos ranked third with a total of 805,833. This was a 26 percent increase on the figure for 2017. Thailand topped the list with 1.9 million visitors and Vietnam was second with 867,585 people.  
One lesson we can learn is that more visitors will come from China if they are offered visa-free entry, as has proved successful in Thailand and Indonesia. Over 10 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand last year. 
Chinese officials made useful suggestions at a meeting last year to promote Visit Laos-China Year. They said Lao and Chinese officials should extend their tourism cooperation and continue to share ideas and information about tourism and the service sector, as well as jointly develop tourism products.
Everyone in Laos is hoping to see a raft of interesting activities provided for Visit Laos-China Year and to see the country’s expectations in terms of visitor numbers hit the target.
Last year the government set an ambitious target of 5 million visitors. But it is thought that the figure will only reach 4.1 million people, well short of the target.
However, this year cooperation between Laos and China should succeed in significantly boosting visitor numbers, especially as Laos has strong potential in the tourism industry.
Many foreign visitors to Laos say they hope to come back at some point in the future. They particularly enjoy Laos’ unspoiled natural beauty, the friendliness of the people they meet, and the warm welcome they receive.
So, all of us have to join forces to preserve the natural environment and put our country’s fine traditions, culture and lifestyle on show, and continue to make visitors feel welcome. We must let the world know that Laos is a must-see destination and can offer a wealth of pleasurable and new experiences.
We must also do our best to maintain two of Laos’ greatest attractions - its two World Heritage sites. These are the old town in Luang Prabang in the north and Vat Phou Champassak in the south, which were officially recognised by UNESCO in 1995 and 2001 respectively.  They continue to draw large numbers of visitors but every effort must be made to preserve these valuable heritage sites.    


By Sisay Vilaysack 
(Latest Update January 24, 2019)

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