Laos is expecting tourism revenues to fall by at least US$350 million (3,111 billion kip) this year with the sector to cut 2 percent off the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The COVID-19 outbreak is having a massive impact on the local tourism industry with the sector first to feel the full economic brunt of the crisis.
According to a National Institute for Economic Research report issued on April 19 about the impacts of the virus, the tourism sector lost US$452,000 in revenue during the first two months of 2020.
The number of tourists dropped dramatically as many countries, including Laos, implemented tough measures against the disease such as suspending domestic and international flights.
Hotels, restaurants, tour operators, tourist sites and airlines have suffered huge losses as customers cancelled their bookings.
According to the report, the number of Chinese and Thai visitors decreased by 16 percent and 5 percent respectively over the first two months of the year, or 14,417 and 21,791 respectively, compared to the same period last year.
However, Laos still managed an increase in visitor numbers from South Korea and Europe during the period.
In January and February, Laos welcomed more than 697,000 visitors, a 4 percent increase compared to the same period in 2019 or equivalent to 14.5 percent of total visitors recorded last year.
The report said that although tourism businesses hit difficulty in February, the worst effects of the crisis occurred this month as international and domestic travel restrictions took full effect.
The impact of the epidemic is expected to last all year even when under control as it will weigh heavily on the minds of consumers considering travel.
The National Institute for Economic Research also noted the areas most impacted by the COVID-19 prevention and protection measures.
Vientiane and Luang Prabang City are suffering the most with more than 5,000 tourism enterprises each. The two regions are also key tourist destinations with many international and domestic flights and were also the first regions to confirm coronavirus infections.
Some 11 provinces are rated in the second level of impact with 1,000 to 5,000 enterprises each. Most border neighbouring countries including along the Mekong River and are passenger and freight gateways.