Laos has set its sights on attracting one million Chinese visitors this year as part of the Visit Laos-China 2019 campaign, with a series of events, fam trips and seminars lined up to grow this key source market.
Sounh Manivong, director general of tourism marketing department, Laos’ Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism (MICT), said: “We want to collaborate with many countries in the future. China is a market with huge potential, so we will start with them and then expand to other nations.”
The two countries have signed an agreement to push tourism in both destinations, starting with a launch event in Vientiane on January 25, followed by a Laos tourism promotion seminar for Chinese business and tourism players.
Other activities include Laos hosting a large-scale promotional event in Beijing in April; a Laos festival in Hunan in July; a promotion seminar in Pakse in August; and a fam trip for Chinese media in southern Laos, before rounding out the year with a closing ceremony in Beijing in December.
With more than five daily flights connecting China and Laos, Sounh said work is underway to secure more direct flights with major Chinese cities this year.
Sounh added the government is working to secure more flights, including from Japan. Promotional activities will also be carried out in South Korea and Japan – two key target markets.
The country landed a recent coup in Scoot’s thrice-weekly flights from Singapore to Luang Prabang and Vientiane, which will begin in April.
China aside, Laos is putting South-east Asia on its radar. “A few years ago, our target markets were Europeans and Americans. This year we are changing this by focusing on attracting South-east Asians and Chinese,” said Somxay Chongheumoua from the tourism marketing research division of MICT’s tourism marketing department.
The increased focus on South-east Asian travellers is coming as good news for some tourism businesses in Laos, although they continue to see Europe and the US as their core markets.
A Laotian tour operator who declined to be named told TTG Asia that compared to the Chinese and some Europeans, South-east Asian travellers are more inclined to spending on local businesses.
He observed: “Tourists from Thailand or even Vietnam are different – they would rather use local services and consume local products. This is important to ensure locals get to benefit from tourism.”
Additional reporting by Yixin Ng