Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia that borders Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and China. With a population of around 7.8 million people, the country of Laos relies heavily on agriculture, foreign aid and investments to keep its economy afloat. At one point, three-fourths of Laos’s population was employed in agriculture, with particular engagement in rice farming. Because the forest covers two-fifths of the country’s land, farming and agriculture are an integral part of the culture of Laos.
As of 2023, much of the population lives in poverty. In 2013, more than 80% of the population was making under $2.5 dollars per day. Laos, however, is a beautiful country. The landscape features rivers, waterfalls and beautiful architectural sites. The country has become a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty. Laos has several spas and resorts that operate to encourage tourists to visit and experience comfort and luxury.
COVID-19 Affects Tourism
The COVID-19 pandemic affected many industries, especially tourism. Tourism accounts for 10% of the global gross domestic product and more than 320 million jobs worldwide. As countries went on lockdown, jobs that relied on tourism became severely impacted. More than 100 million jobs were impacted because of the pandemic. Nearly three years since the beginning of the pandemic, many tourism-dependent countries continue to struggle.
The tourism sector in Laos has been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a substantial decline in international tourist arrivals. As reported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the outbreak has led to a staggering 74% reduction in the number of visitors. Consequently, businesses operating within this industry have experienced significant disruption, with a detrimental impact on their overall revenue, estimated to range between 70% and 80%. To address these challenges and foster recovery, the Lao PDR Tourism COVID-19 Recovery Roadmap for the period of 2021 to 2025 has been developed. This strategic plan aims to cultivate a tourism industry that is both resilient and sustainable, capable of withstanding future shocks.
Laos’s natural beauty is a spectacle that many people feel inclined to experience. With the reopening of previously locked-down countries, Laos has seen a reemergence of tourists entering the country. The country has opened its borders back up to tourists and is beginning to reap the benefits once again. China has officially allowed its residents to travel again, and because Laos borders China, a lot of its tourism comes from its neighbors to the north. On March 4, Laos set its largest Laos-China highspeed railway record in a single day, with 10,000 passengers entering the country.
In 2019, Chinese tourists accounted for a quarter of the country’s 4.7 million visitors. Laos is now expecting to see more than 1.4 million visitors from foreign countries and generate around $340 million in 2023. Tourism also contributes to job creation in Laos. In 2018, there were more than 114,000 tourism-related jobs created for the local people of Laos.
Now that many of the lockdowns have been lifted across Southeast Asia, Laos’s tourism sector looks promising once again. With the continuous influx of Chinese tourists and hopefully more from all around the globe, Laos is looking to restore a vital part of its economy. There is hope that the country can continue to benefit from tourism as it did pre-pandemic.
– Olivia MacGregor