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Public, private sectors gear up for return of tourists

The public and private sectors are making plans to reopen Laos to fully vaccinated tourists in 2022, although the details regarding quarantine upon entry are still being debated. The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism outlined the plans at a Public and Private Sector Consultation Meeting held on December 7.

The ministry is following the guidelines given in a notice from the Prime Minister’s Office issued on November 5, aimed at encouraging authorities to prepare to welcome back tourists. The ministry will provide exact details concerning visitors’ entry into Laos at a later date when more information is available from the Ministry of Health.

Speaking at the meeting, Director General of the Department of Planning and International Cooperation, Mrs Phengchanh Phengmeuang, said the ministry is working with state and private entities to plan for the return of tourists in the near future and will ask the government to approve the plan submitted.

The ministry is preparing to reopen the country to vaccinated tourists under the “Lao Travel Green Zone” programme. The programme will see Vientiane, Vangvieng and Luang Prabang designated as “green zones” to ensure the safety of travellers and service providers. Areas described as green zones must have a population that is 70-80 percent vaccinated, while 90-95 percent of service providers must also be vaccinated.

Under the Lao Travel Green Zone scheme, visitors can book tour packages on the condition that they have a certificate of entry, a vaccination certificate dated at least 14 days prior to entry, a negative PCR test result for Covid done 72 hours or less before boarding a plane as well as on arrival in Laos, and use an app to track possible exposure to Covid during their stay in Laos.

Tourists will be taken to hotels in vehicles approved by LaoSafe while waiting for the result of their PCR test which will be available within 24 hours. If the result is positive, tourists will be isolated for three days before being tested again. If the isolation period is longer than three days, tourists will be refunded for expenses incurred. For travel in green zone areas, tourists must book hotels that have been approved by LaoSafe as well as show a vaccination certificate.

Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone said last month that the government will invite Lao and foreign tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid to come to Laos with a particular focus on visitors from China and the Republic of Korea.

It is hoped that the Lao Thiao Lao (Lao Visit Laos) campaign will attract at least 1.9 million Lao visitors and more than 1 million foreign visitors in 2022.