Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tourist numbers face reality

Since a long time I hear reports from Lunag Prabang that business isn't as good as it was a year ago. 4-5 star hotels have occupancy rates that getting close to 20 percent. But no a guesthouse owner also complained about the lack of tourists. Meanwhile the official numbers try to bring sun into the darkness:
Laos welcomed 2,700,000 visits in 2011 and estimated tourism revenue of US$406 million, according to a Tourism Development Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism’s announcement over the weekend. The growth rate declined from 25.13% to 8.34% when compared to 2010 and 2011.
as quoted in the TTR Magazine. Growth declined from 25 to 8 percent? Hello. Some other news mentioned that Luang Prabang is the only place to visit in the world, according to Wanderlust and others. So why nobody goes there anymore? First of all, 30 percent of tourists are Thai or Chinese, using border passes. They rarely make it to the top destinations, and the looking for cheap tours, often not even stay overnight. Thais in total make 58 percent. Visitors form Vietnam grew 30 percent while China just 6 percent. As the report mentions also:
Europe (6.67% share) supplied 181,539 tourists, marginally increasing by 1.91%. Several markets showed declines including key ones such as France (-0.99%), Germany (-5.77%) and UK (-4.43%). Visitors from the Americas (2.57% market share) reached 69,990, up 4%; 71.57% were from the US.
An if you want to see where the money comes from read this:
Regional tourists (passport and border pass holders from Thailand, Vietnam and China, 2,292,319 or 84.17% share), generated US$188,836,858 or US$37 per person per day. International tourists, tallied 431,245, generated US$217,347 million, an average of US$72 per person per day.
So, usually you would start targeting the high value markets, Unfortunatly this is not the case in Laos. Hotel rates are still raising, infrastructure need to be improved a lot, service and English language skills as well. Laos is still a beautiful destination worth a trip, but it has to move forward.

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