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AustCham Lao Newsletter October 2021

LAO PDR TOURISM COVID-19, RECOVERY ROADMAP 2021-2021

On October 21, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICT), with the support of the UNDP, launched the long awaited Tourism Recovery Roadmap covering the period 2021-25.

Before 2020, tourism in Lao PDR was one of the largest sources of foreign exchange earnings, only behind mining and electricity. International tourism arrivals reached a peak in 2019 as 4.79 million visitors came to Laos and spent $934 million dollars. 

This makes for a contribution of tourism spend to the Lao economy of 9.1%. It also created employment for 300,000 people in Lao PDR. COVID-19 has paralysed the tourism industry, with a decline of international tourism arrivals around 74%. 

Tourism businesses experienced a huge drop in revenue of somewhere between 70 and 80%. Almost all workers in the tourism sector, both directly and indirectly, have been impacted through unpaid salaries, loss of income and increase in outstanding debts (water bills, electricity bills etc), the negative impact on households’ disposable income and a decline in domestic demand. The biggest challenge tourism businesses in Lao PDR have reported as a result of COVID-19 is the high risk of needing to terminate their business due to cashflow issues and lack of working capital. 

At least 50% of tourism businesses have reported cashflow issues as a result of COVID-19, and up to 65% of formal businesses have reported a high risk of needing to terminate at least part of their operations. In interviews as well as the stakeholder consultation workshop, the private sector stressed that financial support to tourism businesses should be an immediate priority, to avoid the sector to collapse in the short to medium term. 

Speaking at the launch, MICT and UNDP representatives provided an overview of the Recovery Roadmap, which concentrates on three core areas:

  1. Economic relief to protect jobs and interventions to revive the tourism sector; 
  2. Build confidence amongst travelers and strengthen the sector; and 
  3. Upgrade, expand and diversify tourism products, services and markets

Three key areas of focus that were highlighted include building on the successful Lao Thaio Lao campaign to further encourage and support domestic tourism; the negotiation and development of travel bubbles with key regional markets along with a soon-to-be launched health and hygiene programme for the sector; and thirdly a focus on developing sustainable travel with a focus on outdoor activities, nature-based products and ecotourism.

Download the report here

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