The travel industry in Laos could generate more than twice 2010’s US$400 million in revenue to hit US$1 billion within 10 years, according to Peter Semone, Chief Technical Advisor for the Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality (Lanith). Semone made the prediction to some 50 delegates at Lanith’s third Quarterly Symposium at Vientiane’s Settha Palace hotel on 16 May, and called on tourism strategist Thomas Cullen’s ‘future-gazing’ skills to draw the roadmap needed to reach the goal.
The former Cornell School of Tourism and Hospitality professor and tourism ‘futurist’, Dr Cullen said the target was within reach if the industry stays abreast of changing demand and focuses on niche markets and experiential holidays.
Semone said realising a substantial leap in tourism revenue, Laos’ second-largest foreign revenue earner behind minerals, “is not only about increasing arrivals. That’s just a third of it. We need to increase the average length of stay and daily spend.”
He added; “Lanith’s contribution is to significantly improve service quality to better position Laos for attracting quality tourists.”
Dr Cullen agreed, stating; “Human resources are at the heart of how we create value,” while noting that tourism accounts for 12 per cent of the world’s workforce.
He told the gathering of public and private sector tourism experts that tourists only spend about “four-to-six hours a day looking at what they came to see. That leaves eight to 10 hours to fill with activities such as shopping, dining, and entertainment,” and he added that “most spending takes place after 6pm”.
To increase the length of stay, Dr Cullen advised; “You must supply activities in the evening. This is a critical factor,” and cautioned that Luang Prabang runs the risk of becoming another backpacker enclave if the UNESCO-listed city did not come up with an activity strategy, especially for the night time.
Baby boomers spend 2.5 times more than backpackers, according to Dr Cullen, who stated; “They travel for culture, but want (a destination) to cater to their lifestyles.”
While admitting he is not a Lao specialist, Dr Cullen explained that travel is no longer only destination-based to visit famous attractions. Rather, tourists are now seeking culture, adventures, activities, and authentic and memorable experiences. “People travel to tell the story