VIENTIANE - Laos has been seeking to attract more Chinese tourists after noticing the large numbers of Chinese people who travel overseas and the large sums of money they spend, local media reported on Friday.
"Laos should target more Chinese tourists because they are high-end customers and spend a lot," Lao state-run Vientiane Times on Friday quoted Lao Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Bosengkham Vongdara as saying at an annual meeting of the information, culture and tourism sector held recently in capital Vientiane.
According to statistics from the ministry's tourism sector, China ranked third in terms of the number of people visiting Laos in 2016. Some 399,556 Chinese nationals came to Laos from January to September in 2016. In 2011, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Laos was recorded at 150,791 people and the figure has steadily increased since then.
China is one of Laos' five neighboring countries, with the others being Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.
But tourism operators and specialists say Laos needs to develop its tourism market to meet the demands of Chinese customers. Supporting factors such as transportation, services, and tourist sites must be upgraded, while it is also necessary to address the problems that perennially cause difficulties for visitors, according to Vientiane Times.
Xanglao Travel Sole Co Ltd Director Vilaysone Louangaphay said on Vientiane Times that in order to fully welcome large numbers of Chinese people the tourism sector needs to study their requirements.
Vilaysone said service standards are something that entrepreneurs must improve, stressing that restaurants, hospitality facilities and transport operators must engender trust among their guests.
Meanwhile, Director of the Information, Culture and Tourism Department in northern Oudomxay province Phonsavanh Phanthavichit said Oudomxay authorities had met with related sectors in three northern provinces that share borders with China, those being Luang Namtha, Bokeo and Phongsaly, to seek consensus in solving issues that impact the tourism climate.
Oudomxay authorities have also discussed with their Chinese counterparts efforts to encourage Chinese companies to invest in various sectors in the province, including tourism.
Phonsavanh said the department will continue to work with hospitality businesses, tourist site operators and restaurant owners to upgrade their services and infrastructure to facilitate visitors.
Chinese people are interested in Lao culture and the lifestyle of ethnic groups, so these areas should be highlighted as part of Laos' sales pitch, said the official.