Laos looks to Japan for tourism boost

Shintaro Hori, deputy chief of the UNWTO’s Asia Pacific office
Shintaro Hori, deputy chief of the UNWTO’s Asia Pacific office, addresses the Lanith event

Laos could boost its tourism revenues by attracting more Japanese visitors, an event in the country has heard.

The 12th Lanith (Lao National Institute of Tourism & Hospitality) Symposium was held at Lao Airlines’ headquarters in Vientiane recently to discuss ways of improving the country’s tourism marketing and increasing revenues. And a speaker from the UNWTO told the 70-plus delegates how targeting the Japanese market could be a good way of boosting tourism spending.

Shintaro Hori, deputy chief of the UNWTO’s Asia Pacific office, pointed out that Japanese visitors to Laos stay an average of five to six days, and spend about US$400 per day. This compares favourably to the country’s US$160 average daily spend.

He went on to suggest ways Laos could attract a greater share of the Japanese FIT market.

“The Japanese market… likes unique experiences and destinations. They want more than city sites in Vientiane and Luang Prabang,” Hori said. But he added; “tour operators are losing a lot of Japanese business just because they lack [Japanese-speaking] guides.”

Laos could also establish an emergency medical system for elderly travellers, he added, noting that Laos currently attracts more high-income senior travellers from Japan.

Hori admitted however, that any major rise in Japanese tourist numbers would rely on the presence of direct flights between the two countries, and said Japanese airlines would “need to be convinced they will fill the seats.”

While international tourist arrivals to Laos grew 20% last year to a record 3.8 million, the average tourist expenditure remains far behind the international average.

“We need to attract more big spenders, and hopefully this Lanith Symposium will help find a way to greater tourism expenditures,” said Saly Phimphinith, the country’s tourism marketing director.

“There are still many things to do to better market Laos tourism… [and] these Lanith Symposia provide a good platform for public and private sector cooperation, and we need to work together to promote the country’s tourism and raise revenue,” he added.

As well as the UNWTO, the Lanith event was also addressed by a senior speaker from TripAdvisor.

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