Luang Prabang is enjoying a resurgence with more overseas visitors

Ferry terminals, the airport, the night market, local tourist attractions and restaurants in the town have been crowded in recent months, giving a major boost to the tourism industry after a recent slump. Visitor numbers took a dive during the economic downturn in western countries and because of political unrest in a neighbouring country.

“There are definitely more overseas tourists here than last year. Business is better but it is still not as good as several years ago,” a hotel manager in Luang Prabang told Vientiane Times recently. “Our hotel has 30 rooms and almost all of them are occupied right now.”

He said his hotel had been seriously affected by the global financial crisis and political turmoil in a neighbouring country a few years ago, when many people cancelled their holidays.

Now, however, hotels are enjoying a boom in business, along with vegetable growers, tuk-tuk drivers and handicraft and food sellers at the night market.

“There are more tourists this year so we can sell more food,” said a vendor at the night market. According to a report from the Luang Prabang Information, Culture and Tourism Department, tourist arrivals are expected to rise by 8 percent in 2013 thanks to the stable world and regional situation, which stimulates tourism.

In 2012, Luang Prabang recorded 297,506 tourist arrivals, a 7.17 percent increase compared to the previous year. Most of the tourists came from Asian nations including Thailand, China and the Republic of Korea, with the rest coming mostly from Europe.

There has been a significant increase in the number of visitors from Korea thanks to the launch of direct flights between Laos and Korea in the high season. Koreans are keen to visit Luang Prabang because they can play golf there cheaply.

Tourism officials said the upswing in visitor numbers was a major boost to the industry. A survey shows that, on average, tourists spend five days in Luang Prabang and spend at least 500,000 kip a day. In 2012, tourism generated 823 billion kip (US$102 million) for the local economy, they said. The burgeoning tourism industry offers attractive investment potential for local and international businesses, with opportunities in hotels and other tourism services.