Tourists change transit route to Laos

Long-haul tourists visiting Luang Prabang are changing their transit gateway from Thailand to Vietnam and Cambodia to avoid political unrest in Bangkok, reports said.

International tourists may feel concerned about their safety in Thailand, Soudaphone Khomthavong, deputy director of Luang Prabang Provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, told the Vientiane Times.

“We have two flights between Luang Prabang and Hanoi and we also have two flights between Luang Prabang and Siem Reap and most of these flights are full,” Ms Soudaphone said.

“In the first quarter of this fiscal year 2013-14, the number of foreign tourist arrivals in Luang Prabang increased by 24% compared to the same period the year before despite political uncertainty in Thailand.”According to an immigration official at Luang Prabang International Airport, Ms Sailom Xayavong, passengers from Thailand have declined from around 300 per day last year to 250 per day this year.

Passengers on flights from Thailand are also mainly Thais rather than foreign tourists.

Ms Sailom added that 160-200 passengers per day are entering the country from Vietnam - the majority of who are foreigners, an increase of 20% in January compared to the same period last year.

Foreign tourist arrivals to Laos reached 3.78 million in 2013. Of the total, 2.06 million came from Thailand, up from 1.9 million in 2012, followed by Vietnam (910,164) and China (245,003).

Ms Soudaphone said many more Thai tourists are visiting Luang Prabang this year following the opening of the fourth Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge with more buses connecting between the World Heritage town and the north east and northern provinces of Thailand including Chiang Rai and Loei.

In 2013, Laos saw an increase in tourist arrivals from Europe, America and the Middle East. The number of European tourists visiting Laos reached over 212,000 people in 2013, an increase of 14 per cent.

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