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Tourism Promotion Board to develop tourism strategy in Lao PDR

The private sector believes that the strategy to promote and improve tourism should include the establishment of a Tourism Promotion Board to allow the public and private sectors to work together more effectively.

This issue was raised at a public-private consultative meeting of the Lao Business Forum earlier this year.

Although the number of tourist arrivals and tourism revenue has significantly increased in recent years, Laos still lacks the leadership to develop the tourism sector so that it can achieve its goals while tourism promotion activities are not sufficiently organized. Infrastructure improvement and tourism site maintenance continue to suffer from budget shortages because the collection of funds is not properly implemented. This means funding for tourism is inadequate to develop and promote tourism.

In light of this, the Tourism Working Group believes that allowing the private sector to take part in the decision-making process on strategic planning to develop, support and promote tourism objectively is extremely important for the development of tourism in Laos to attract more tourists and use tourism funds more beneficially.

Based on lessons learned by other countries, the Board should be an independent entity, with full authority to lead and manage tourism promotion activities according to its own agenda, the meeting agreed. The Board should consist of a team of full-time professionals that can implement the tourism work plan at full capacity. The Board would act as a key entity to identify new ideas and strategies to develop and promote tourism and allocate funding to support all tourism-related activities in Laos and overseas. Most importantly, the Board must be a transparent entity that can be audited by an external auditor with respect to revenue and expenditure.

Several countries in the ASEAN region have independent tourism promotion boards with specific mandates to plan and promote tourism development. Now the collection of US$1 per tourist is not uniformly implemented and, according to business owners, the collection of this fee varies. In Bokeo province the fee is collected at checkpoints, in Vientiane it is collected by tour companies, and in Champasak it is collected at checkpoints and by tour companies.

Furthermore, there are no clear guidelines for collecting tourism funds and using them.

The collection of tourism promotion funds from tour companies is seen as repetitive, for example, a tourist who buys a package tour from several companies has to pay US$1 each time, which is not appropriate. The relevant sectors have not yet assessed or disclosed information to stakeholders on fund collection or budget allocation. In addition, the meeting agreed that business owners should be involved in deciding or recommending the use of tourism promotion funds to maximize tourism benefits.

Source: Vientiane Times