FEATURE: Tourism operator envisages massive benefits from Visit Laos Year 2018 campaign

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - An inbound and outbound tour operator, Analine Travel Company, is optimistic about tourism in Laos following  the launch of  Visit Laos Year 2018 which  kicked off last month at the start of the That Luang Festival in Vientiane.

The event is the biggest marketing campaign organised by the state. It is expected to bring huge benefits to people and entrepreneurs and drive economic growth in the long term.

Company Director Analine Dedala said “We will do our best in our duties and not let the good chances fly away.”   

To ensure better returns from this event,  Lao authorities plan to hold similar ceremonies in some target countries to expand the potential of tourism markets there.

The government has invested billions of kip to boost tourism and attract the targetted number of tourists  by organising the grand Visit Laos Year.

Next year, the tourism sector plans to welcome more than 5 million tourists, who it is hoped will generate about US$900 million.

Analine said many people in Europe did not know about Laos because it is a small country, so this event was a good chance to promote the country.

Tourism is an important economic pillar for Laos. But attracting tourists is very challenging because governments in Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar are also running tourism campaigns.

Analine said “We have prepared everything very well to welcome guests.”

Analine Travel provides both inbound and outbound services. The firm also provides VIP bus and global air ticket services. It has various tour programmes  to meet clients’ demands. The firm also offers bespoke itineraries for individuals.

Since beginning operations in  2015 in Nongveng village, Hadxaifong district, Vientiane, Analine Travel has enjoyed strong growth despite the competition, the director said.

The company has strong cooperation with both domestic and overseas business partners, offering  services to customers such as tourist information, accommodation, food and transport.

In the past, the company catered to a lot of Thai tourists, but now the number of Thai visitors is declining, while tourists from the Republic of Korea are increasing.

In 2015, the firm welcomed at least 5 to 10 tourist groups a day from Thailand. Each group was about 45 to 200 people but now there are only 5 to 6 groups a week.

On average each month, the company receives about 700 to 2000 Korean guests, depending on the season. Each day the company  receive 3-8 groups. But the number of Chinese tourists is smaller, with 200 to 300 coming each month.

Analine envisages that the number of  Chinese tourists will rise in the future when transport between Laos and China develops, such as the railway that is currently under construction.

While foreign visitors come to Laos, many Lao people are interested in travelling to Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and China’s Hong Kong, Beijing and Macau. Longer distance trips take them to  France, England and Dubai.

Analine said that in the past Lao companies gave cash as  bonuses for their staff, but now they buy them tour products instead.

The company provides both inbound and outbound services to ensure that Lao people can visit tourist sites  overseas while promoting Laos to visiting guests. She is confident that tourism in Laos will steadily grow in the future. 

Her company is ready for the possible increase in visitors by improving their quality of service and vehicles and updating the knowledge of their guides.

One of the challenges tour operators face is the inadequate number of hotel rooms. Because of this they have to make bookings three months in advance, especially in popular areas such as Vangvieng and Luang Prabang province.

If Chinese and Korean tourists come to Laos at the same time, it is very difficult to reserve hotels, Analine said.

Another problem is the small number of tourist sites and their small size, for example, Tham Nam-Thamxang and Phoukham in Vangvieng. If a lot of Lao, Chinese, Thai or Koreans are there at the same time, the area will be very crowded. Guides have to compete with each other to find facilities for their clients.

In addition, the higher living cost compared to some neighbouring countries is a significant obstacle in attracting tourists.

Analine said the cost of hotels and food in Laos is much higher than in Vietnam. She reserves a hotel in Vientiane which offers her cheaper rates because of the number of guests she brings. She pays US$60 per night per room.

Most tourists prefer 3 to 4-star hotels. But a 3 or 4-star hotel in Vietnam is only US$40 to US$50 and seafood is inexpensive.

There are also not enough guides in Laos who can speak Chinese, Korean or German, which is another challenge.

However, she urged all Lao people and everyone involved to be good hosts and offer impressive services for visiting guests.