VIENTIANE, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Laos is gearing up to welcome more Chinese tour groups in efforts to boost tourism sector recovery after three years of the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lao government and private sectors have been preparing for the arrival of large numbers of Chinese tourists after Laos was listed among countries greenlit by the Chinese government for outbound group tours.
The number of Chinese tourists has gradually increased to Laos since the Chinese government lifted travel restrictions on its citizens and authorized outbound travel earlier this year.
The Chinese tourism market is a source of great revenue and because of this many countries have been engaged in promotion schemes to attract Chinese tourists, Lao National Radio on Monday quoted Lao Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Ounthuang Khaophan as saying during a meeting on preparations for Chinese tourists, held in Lao capital Vientiane last Friday.
The Lao government has also been working to improve tourism products and modernizing the tourism industry to suit the Chinese market.
A huge boost to the growth of this market is the China-Laos Railway, which enables fast and convenient travel between Laos and China, while more flights between Lao capital Vientiane and various Chinese cities are opening up, further facilitating travel, Ounthuang said.
Director General of the Tourism Development Department under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism Phonemaly Inthaphome said Laos is preparing many facilities and services to welcome Chinese tourists, in efforts to impress them and encourage them to return.
To make cross-border travel for railway passengers easier, the Lao government has set up a fast-track customs and immigration service unit at the Boten border crossing in northern Laos' Luang Namtha province.
Entry and exit procedures at border crossings have been improved and train tickets are now more readily available, Phonemaly said.
The Lao government has created a Chinese language tourism video, provided Chinese language training for tour guides, and installed signposts showing tourist attractions along the main national highway and at the entrance to tourism spots along the China-Laos Railway in Chinese, English and Lao.
Laos has also participated in a tourism exhibition in China and hosted a seminar to promote Lao-Chinese tourism, in addition to organizing a program to encourage Chinese business operators to visit tourist attractions in Laos.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Southeast Asian country in early 2020, 1,022,727 Chinese tourists came to Laos in 2019, accounting for 21 percent of the total number of visitors. In 2022, 45,249 Chinese visitors came to Laos.
Laos has seen a boom in tourism in the first three months of 2023 as more than 831,000 foreign tourists came to Laos, with visitors from Thailand, Vietnam, China and South Korea topping the list.
Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism show that among the total arrivals, 344,405 visitors were from Thailand, almost 180,000 came from Vietnam, 143,312 from China, and 45,756 from South Korea.