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Tourism sector to focus on service in Laos

Photo: View of Vientiane city from Donchan Palace Hotel

Chairman of the Lao National Tourism Administration Somphong Mongkhonvilay urged the government, the private sector and others working in the tourist industry to work more closely to improve tourism services nationwide, at a meeting on Fri day in Vientiane.

Speaking at a meeting held to discuss proposals for the development of the tourism industry in 2008, and the Elephant Festival to be held from February 15 to 17 in Paklai district, Xayaboury province, Mr Somphong praised the outstanding efforts by members of the tourism sector that led to Laos being awarded a number of prizes by international organisations in the past year.

Luang Prabang province was one of the most popular destinations amongst foreign visitors to Laos in 2007, with the majority interested in ecotourism, he noted.

In preparation for the increased number of tourists expected this year, the meeting selected representatives from the government and private tourist sectors to help identify and resolve issues and weaker areas, and to mobilise plans for improvements to the country's tourism industry.

“To impress foreign visitors with our service, we have to expand and strengthen our working relationships and coordination,” said Mr Somphong.

“We must build more facilities for travellers entering and leaving the country, and improve the overall quality of our services in order to attract more tourists and increase revenue for the country.”

He emphasised that the service sectors should work to create a better customer-orientated environment at tourist venues, and preserve tourist attractions by reducing the impacts on the natural, cultural and social environment.

The tourism industry plays a very important role in the country's economy. It generates sustainable incomes for Lao people and helps to remove people from the despair of poverty, said the Vice Chairman of the administration, Mr Soukaseum Bodhisane.

Mr Soukaseum also announced to the assembled media representatives and tourism operators that the world's most famous newspaper, the New York Times, recently named Laos as the top tourist destination for 2008.

The Travel Section of the newspaper collated information on the most attractive destinations in the world, and had placed Laos at number one of the 53 best places to visit this year, he said.

Since the country first began a tourism campaign in 1990-2000, the number of visitors to Laos has continued to increase rapidly. Annual foreign visitors to Laos topped 737,208 in 2002, and tourism has now become one of the nation's leading income earners.

The Lao National Tourism Administration is expecting more than one million visitors to Laos this year, generating around US$195 million.

By MK. Vongsam-ang

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