VIENTIANE, July 6 (Xinhua) -- The Lao authorities are holding talks with other ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries to share ideas on ways to attract more visitors and make them feel welcome.
Plans will also focus on ensuring the health and safety of tourists as the COVID-19 virus continues to circulate, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Wednesday.
These issues topped the agenda of the online 56th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Tourism, which took place in Lao capital Vientiane from Tuesday to Wednesday and was chaired by Khom Douangchantha, director general of the Tourism Marketing Department under the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
The meeting noted that many ASEAN countries have adopted policies and measures to facilitate travel within the region, such as simplifying procedures around tourists' arrival and departure.
ASEAN officials will continue to work together to revive tourism in the region under an action plan approved earlier this year, in collaboration with the relevant sectors. The ultimate goal is to revitalize the tourism industry and restore visitor numbers to pre-pandemic levels.
This will include the development of diversified tourism products, marketing campaigns, improvement of tourism standards and connectivity, and the use of more digital systems to provide tourists with easier access to information.
In addition, authorities in ASEAN will work with dialogue partners and international organizations to strengthen tourism and make it easier for tourists to travel.
At the start of 2022, the Lao government initiated a policy to kickstart tourism in the form of green (safe) tourism areas, with travel limited to groups overseen by Lao tourism companies. This was followed by the full reopening of the country to visitors in May, with all restrictions lifted.
Under the country's new entry and exit rules, visitors no longer need to take an RT-PCR test prior to departure for Laos and COVID-19 insurance is now not required.
There is also no need for an ATK test at border crossings if visitors are fully vaccinated. Instead, they need only show a vaccination certificate.
In the first quarter of 2022, some 626,825 domestic tourists made trips within Laos and 35,980 foreign tourist arrivals were recorded, with expectations that many more international tourists will come to Laos during the rest of the year.