Laos tourism industry get major boost


VIENTIANE, LAOS – The Lao tourism industry and related businesses in Vientiane have gained a major financial boost as thousands of tourists flock to the capital Vientiane for the ongoing 25th Southeast Asian Games.

Vientiane Hotel and Restaurant Association President, Oudet Souvannavong, said most of the 7,000 hotel and guesthouse rooms, which the association arranged to accommodate visitors during the SEA Games, were full.

“Heavy booking of hotel rooms is in accordance with what we expected,” Oudet said, adding that about 3,000 hotel and guesthouse guests were delegates from Asean member countries.

Businesses and economists estimate that one visitor spends at least US$100 a day while staying in Laos. Thus, more than $700,000 a day will be injected into the Lao tourism industry and related businesses in Vientiane .

Lao Association of Travel Agents President Bouakhao Phomsouvanh, said the money would help the tourism industry recover after the fallout from the global financial crisis, which caused a major drop in tourist arrivals.

About 15 to 20 per cent of tourists cancelled their trips to Laos in late 2008 and early 2009 after the global financial crisis and outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which scared off many overseas visitors.

Bouakhao said without the 11-country SEA Games, the tourism industry would continue to suffer from the economic downturn, adding that an increasing number of tourists from European countries had also given the industry a boost.

He said there were a lot of tourists from neighbouring countries in Vientiane for the games. The SEA Games not only benefits hotels and restaurants but also vendors who sell souvenirs and T-shirts to spectators.

Vendors selling T-shirts displaying the Lao flag outside Chao Anouvong Stadium said they have sold more than 100 items a day thanks to SEA Games fever.

Phankham Vongkhanty, who was given exclusive rights by the SEA Games Organising Committee to distribute tickets, said he had not expected so many people to buy tickets.

He said local demand had prompted the organising committee to stage Thursday’s football match between Laos and Singapore at the National Stadium instead of at Chao Anouvong Stadium.

Many noodle shops in the Sihom area of central Vientiane were crowded with customers as hundreds of people went in search of food after the SEA Games opening ceremony on Wednesday night. Vendors at Thongkhankham market said they had not put up their prices, and were happy to take part in hosting the event along with everyone else in Vientiane .

Lao National Chamber of Industry and Commerce Secretary General, Mr Khanthalavong Dalavong, said the government’s investment in the event would boost economic growth.