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9 July 2010

Govt targets 1.22m tourists next year

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Lao National Tourism Authority Chairman Somphong Mongkhonvilay is optimistic tourist arrivals will hit 1.2 million in 2010-11, a figure endorsed by the National Assembly last week and reported by The Ventiane Times .

But achieving this target will depend on several factors, including the political situation in Thailand and how well tourism is is promoted to the outside world. “We are well aware that most tourists came to Laos via Thailand so we need to find more gateways into Laos through Vietnam or opening direct flights with other countries,” Mr Somphong said.

“The government and private sector need to be in agreement about providing good services at reasonable prices.”

If Laos could attract 1.22 million tourists, the revenue from tourism could reach about US$288 million, he said.

The entry process should be fast, with no obstacles that would make tourists feel frustrated.

He also said Laos needed to maintain security and safety for tourists in all the places they visit.

“All our border checkpoints need to operate to the same standard so that officials everywhere act as good hosts by offering services that impress tourists,” Mr. Somphong said.

Tour prices needed to be reasonable and programmes should be diverse and different from other countries so tourists could see the countryside and various ethnic cultures, he said.

“Tour companies need to be fair in their dealings with tourists and should not take advantage by overcharging them for anything.”

“We have many hotels, guesthouses and restaurants, but the standards of some of them have yet to meet Asean requirements,” Mr Somphong said.

The minister asked Lao Airlines and other related businesses to discuss ways of attracting more tourists.

The tourism authority plans to work with the sectors in charge of events to mark the 450th anniversary of Vientiane as capital, with a view to organising activities for visitors.

More tourism programmes are planned for all parts of Laos such as cultural events and ethnic festivals.

“We will organise caravans to take people to various places of interest. I think if we can do better at organising these events, more tourists will come to Laos.” Mr. Somphong said one of the most important things was to promote domestic tourism by encouraging Lao people to visit different parts of the country.

The scheme covers all production stages including training for farmers on better growing methods, and improvements in rice milling facilities and rice packaging.

The project, which began in January 2010 and will run until October 2011, is being implemented by the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry in collaboration with the Swiss Association for International Cooperation (Helvetas) and the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV).

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