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Laos - Jewel of the Mekong

(KPL) Laos plans to promote its reputation as “Laos - Jewel of the Mekong,” in the future to attract more tourists around the world.

This was quoted from a statement of Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office Mr Somphong Mongkhounvilay made at a seminar on Lao Mass Media with Tourism on 21 March at the National Culture Hall.

The seminar was organised by the Lao National Tourism Administration (LNTA) in cooperation with mass media agencies to mark the 10th founding anniversary of the “Mouang Lao” (Laos) Magazine.

Mr Somphong who is also the LNTA President, highlighted over the past 15 years the active and constant Lao tourism development. Since 1999, the Lao tourism has seen a fast and constant growth, the number of foreign tourist arrivals has also on the rise, at least 20% a year on average. It has made a large income for the nation and ranks top of national income spinners.

In particular 2007, more than 1.6 million tourists visited Laos, up by 33%, the highest rate among ASEAN member countries. Tourism also generated US$235 million for the country.

The reputation of Lao tourism was emerging in the region and the world. In particular the Nam Ha ecotourism in northern Luang Namtha province, has won three international awards. 10 hotels have also received “green hotel awards” from the Association of ASEAN Tourism.

The curriculum of guide training of the world heritage town of Luang Prabang has won a gold award from the Association of Asia-Pacific Tourism. So has the website “ecotourismlao.com”.

The Luang Prabang World Heritage Town has also been voted by tourists through the Wanderlust, a leading travel magazine of the United Kingdom as the first rank of popular tourism town for three consecutive years (2005-07). The world leading newspaper “New York Times” in the United States selected Laos as the first rank of tourism destination by 2008, out of the 53 well-known tourism sites around the world.

Mr. Somphong also viewed that Laos’ achievement and prestige in international tourism was attributed to a great contribution of local mass media.

The successful lessons from among ASEAN member countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and others countries worldwide have invested in multi-advertisements with a huge amount each year.

According to the LNTA statistics for the 2003-07 period, tourists received information on Laos mainly from magazines and newspapers, accounting for 51 % per year, 4 % through TV, about 28-30 % through radio, 12 % through friends and 41 % through tour companies. The mass media is considered very significant for the renovation movement and tourism promotion and marketing. So the role of the media has been identified in the Lao Tourism Development Strategy for the 2006-20 period as well as tourism law, aiming at providing understanding to Lao people on contribution of tourism preservation and promotion and making foreign tourists knowing about Laos.

The awareness campaign is to concentrate on publishing the beauty of nation, outstanding natural resources, national identity of tourism products in culture, history, nature and other hospitality services. These works have so far been paid attention by the LNTA in cooperation with other private tourism companies.

The LNTA President added that Laos was a small country which was integrating its economy to the regional and international economies, which there will be cooperation and high competitive in tourism area following the opening of ASEAN Free Trade Area.
Laos will host the 2009 SEA Games in 2009 and Vientiane will celebrate its 450th anniversary of the proclamation as the country’s capital. The Party and Government consider the tourism as a priority out of other priorities involved to national economic development.

“By this, we need to cooperate with the mass media to fulfil the goal set by the Government,” said the LNTA President.

The LNTA expects that income from tourism would increase to 13% by the 2008-09 period.

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