#Laos Saw More Chinese, Less Korean Tourists in Past Six Months

The number of tourists visiting Laos has increased 5 percent in the past six months thanks to a rise in the number of Chinese visitors.
 
More than 2.2 million people visited Laos between January and June, according to Laos’s Tourism Development Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
 
The number of Chinese visitors jumped by 13 percent while that of Vietnamese visitors increased by 11 percent. The number of visitors from Thailand also rose by 1 percent.
 
Vientiane Times quoted an unnamed government official as saying that he believed visitor numbers were up because of the ongoing Visit Laos-China Year campaign.
 
However, the number of South Korean visitors plummeted by 20 percent while that of Japanese visitors sank by 13 percent.
 
The official told Vientiane Times that the decline in arrivals from some countries was due to circumstances beyond the authorities control.
 
“Some people stayed away because they were unsure of the quality of services here. And although Laos has many enticing tourism products there are several inconveniences, such as poor road access to tourist sites,” the official added.
 
Laos attracted more than 4.1 million foreign tourists last year, an 8.2 percent increase from the previous year. Tourism generated revenue of more than USD 755 million in 2018.
 
Meanwhile, it is expected that at least 4.5 million people will visit Laos this year, generating revenue of more than USD 700 million.
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More Chinese tourist expected
 
Officials believe that, out of 4.5 million expected tourists, 1 million would come from China.
 
To achieve such a goal, Laos is currently intensifying its efforts to improve services and create more facilities for visitors.
 
Vang Vieng, one of the most famous tourist destinations in Laos, for instance, has improved the quality of services and made changes to the price of food, accommodation, and the fees charged at tourist attractions.
 
In Luang Prabang, meanwhile, restaurants have added Chinese dishes to their menus and installed signs written in Chinese at popular tourist sites.
As for Luang Namtha Province, the authorities are encouraging officials to supply useful information to Chinese visitors.
 
There have also been some other positive developments that might boost the number of Chinese visitors to Laos.
 
Banque pour le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL) has recently teamed up with Chinese payment service provider UnionPay International (UPI) to roll out new QR code payment services in Laos.
 
The move will enable UnionPay app users to make payments by scanning QR codes at local stores in the country.
 
UnionPay currently operates one of the most popular mobile payment apps in China, and this means BCEL’s collaboration with UPI would help Laos’s local businesses to reach out to more Chinese visitors, who make up one of the largest sources of tourists.
 
Separately, Thailand is currently preparing to launch the country’s first bullet train that will run between Bangkok and Beijing, China, with Laos as one of the intermediate stations.
 
In particular, the first route, a Thai-Sino project linking Bangkok, Nong Khai, Laos and a Chinese city Mohan in the far Northeast, is currently under construction and is scheduled to be completed by 2023.
 
Where are the Koreans?
 
Laos has been one of the most popular destinations for South Korean tourists thanks to the reality TV show, “Youth Over Flowers,” which aired in 2014.
 
The number of visitors from South Korea to Laos grew in 2015 and 2016, finally beginning to plateau in 2017. The overall market share of South Korea rose to 4.4 percent in 2017, however, according to a report by Laos’s Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. The number jumped from 96,085 in 2014 to 170,571 in 2017.
 
However, local tourism experts have repeatedly suggested that such a number is decreasing, but there had been no official number released by the Lao government until now.
 
Confirmation from the tourism ministry that the number of South Korean visitors plummeted by 20 percent in the first six months is therefore highly significant.
 
One Vientiane-based tourism expert cited a lack of promotional efforts as one of the reasons to contribute to the drop in such number.
 
“The TV show that led to the surge came out five years ago. Out of sight, out of mind. No one made any more major Korean TV shows or films, to my knowledge,” the expert told The Laotian Times.
 
As he pointed out, several South Korean broadcasters released similar shows to repeat the success of “Youth Over Flowers,” but none of them was able to attract similar viewer numbers.
 
The expert also noted that not enough has been done to promote and encourage people to return to Laos.
 
According to the latest survey conducted by the tourism ministry, only 7.9 percent of respondents said it was their returning visit to Laos. In contrast, first-time visitors accounted for 75.2 percent.
Time for a Diversification?
 
The Lao government invited 12 representatives from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan and South Korea to Bolikhamxay and Khammouane provinces, in a bid to promote other parts of the country.
 
The familiarization trip to the two provinces took place between July 12 and 17 and was designed to publicize some of Laos’ tourist attractions and encourage the tour operators to include some of these locations in their package tours.
 
It marked the Lao government’s latest effort to promote lesser-known tourist sites to foreigners, and this work is expected to continue in the coming years.
Source – The Laotian Times
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Thai bay made famous by The Beach shut till 2021

Thai Bay

THE closure of the glittering Thai bay made famous by the movie The Beach has been extended for another two years to allow a full recovery of its corals and wildlife, an official said on Thursday, drawing a sharp rebuke from the tourism industry.

Maya Bay, ringed by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Ley island and surrounded by azure waters, was made famous when it featured in the 2000 film starring Leonardo Dicaprio.

It was shut last June by Thai authorities due to worries the white-sand paradise was suffering from the pressure of thousands of day-trippers arriving by boat.

Authorities had initially said the beach – a massive draw for Thailand’s more than 38 million tourists – was going to be closed for four months, but the re-opening was repeatedly postponed.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, adviser to the Department of National Parks, on Thursday said the ban on visitors will be extended until mid-2021.

“The resolution of the Department of Parks yesterday [May 8] is to extend the closure of Maya Bay for another two years to allow its ecology to fully recover,” he said.

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After it is reopened, measures such as limiting the number of daily visitors and banning boats from parking within the bay’s waters will be enacted, Thon said.

Before Maya Bay’s closure, up to 5,000 tourists visited daily, causing trees and smaller vegetation to be uprooted, creeping soil erosion, and severe damage to the corals in the bay.

A majority of the visitors were ferried there from tourist hotspot Krabi province by local longtail boatmen or tour operators who touted the movie-famous bay as a key attraction for day trips.

“Maya Bay is the heart of our tourism,” said Wattana Rerngsamut, chairman of Krabi Provincial Tourism Association which represents some 200 tourism and hotel operators.

Calling the two-year extension “unfair”, Wattana said the Department of National Parks should conduct public hearings so they can find “common ground . . . so that local people can earn a living”.

Chinese visitors, making up a quarter of Thailand’s tourists, have “plunged 50 per cent [in Krabi]”, he added.

Thailand experienced a three-month slowdown in tourism last year, most noticeably since July when a ferry sank and killed 47 Chinese visitors off nearby Phuket.

Since the tragedy, the government has rolled out inducements aimed at regaining trust and making travel easier – including exempting Chinese visitors from paying a visa-on-arrival fee.

Less than a year after its closure, blacktip reef sharks have been sighted swimming in Maya Bay, with conservationists saying their return signals signs of a recovery to the ecology.

Source – ThePhnomPenhPost

#Bangkok leads ranking of top travel destinations during Lunar New Year

Bangkok has emerged the most popular destination for travelers in
Asia-Pacific during the Lunar New Year period, the world’s largest
annual human migration, which is currently underway. 
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The Thai capital reclaimed the top spot this year as the most popular
travel destination in online booking platform Agoda’s list of top
spring festival destinations 2019, knocking last year’s winner Tokyo to
second spot, followed by Taipei. 
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The results are based on hotel booking data on Lunar New Year dates for 2019. 
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This year, it’s estimated that Chinese travelers will undertake
nearly three billion trips by car, train and plane in the 40-day period
between January 21 and March 1, an increase of 0.6 percent from 2018. 
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On February 5, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Mongolia,
Indonesia and Malaysia will celebrate the lunar new year and usher in
the year of the pig, the 12th and last position on the Chinese zodiac. 
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In general, Pigs are born in the years 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 and 2019. 
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 Here are the top 10 most popular travel destinations according to Agoda:  

1. Bangkok, Thailand

2. Tokyo, Japan

3. Taipei, Taiwan

4. Hong Kong

5. Kaohsiung, Taiwan

6. Osaka, Japan

7. Taichung, Taiwan

8; Sapporo, Japan

9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

10. Singapore

Source – TheJakartaPost
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#Malaysia – Triplet families’ double joy

Children dressed up as God of Prosperity giving

GEORGE TOWN: Conceived via “test tube”, two sets of triplets give their families much to celebrate every Chinese New Year.

Assistant manager Chang Peng Hooi, 51, and his wife Goh Siew Leng, 47, recounted having to opt for a “test tube” baby after Chang discovered he had colon cancer.

“We hoped for the best and conceived all three embryos.

“My two boys and daughter were born at 37 weeks into her (Goh’s) pregnancy and they were born healthy.

“They all like different things, and therefore shopping is always fun.

“This year, my wife’s siblings who are based in China will be back for the festivities, so we will be celebrating it with them,” he said.

Chang and Goh’s 12-year-old sons Jia Sheng and Jia Jun and daughter Jia Qi go to school with another set of triplets, who also give their family cause to celebrate each year.

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Wong Boon Keng, 45, and his wife Koay Mooi Shen, 43, who run a wholesale toy business, were blessed with triplets Yin Rou, Yin En and Yin Han via in-vitro fertilisation 12 years ago.

“We consider them miracle babies because they were born premature and although we did have many hospital visits when they were young, they are now three healthy girls.

“We wanted another child as our eldest daughter was turning seven then but we could not conceive.

“We did not realise we would have triplets but it has been a pleasant surprise.

“They are all very different from each other and we also have a younger daughter who is 10, so it is a house full of girls for us.

“Chinese New Year shopping is always a full day event,” said Koay.

Koay said the family usually visits a temple or a tourist site during Chinese New Year.

“Maybe this year we will go to Chew Jetty.

“We seldom visit relatives as everyone comes over to our place,” she said.

When asked if it was an interesting experience having both sets of triplets in the same school, Chang said it was fun as they have been in the same school since Year One and some of them have also been classmates.

Source – TheNation

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#Philippines to rein in visitors to Boracay island, strained by tourism

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The Philippines will limit the number of visitors setting foot on its
most treasured island resort each day when it reopens to tourists on
October 26 after a six-month rehabilitation effort, an environment
official said on Wednesday.
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Boracay, located off the northern tip of the central island of Panay,
is famed for its sugary white sands, turquoise waters, lively nightlife
and abundant water sports, which attracted nearly 2 million domestic
and foreign visitors last year.
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But in April, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of the
island, calling it a “cesspool”, because of sewage dumped into the sea
and buildings constructed too close to the shore.
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About a third of the 600 to 700 resorts on Boracay, about 308 km (192
miles) from Manila, the capital, were operating without permits,
authorities found.
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Just 19,000 tourists will be allowed on the island on any given day,
with the number of workers capped at 15,000 daily, the environment
official, Sherwin Rigor, said in a television interview.
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 Only half of the island’s 12,000 existing hotel rooms will be allowed
to open each day, he added, to ensure the number of guests on the tiny
10-sq-km (4-sq-mile) island is below its “carrying capacity” of 55,000.
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Rigor, who is an undersecretary at the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources, added that authorities would ban beachfront parties,
and activities such as eating, smoking and drinking there.
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The closure of Boracay, which earns the Philippines more than a
billion dollars in tourism revenue every year, weighed on gross domestic
product in the second quarter. Growth slowed to a near three-year low
of 6 percent in April-June.
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Source – TheJakartaPost
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#Malaysia – 5 ways to get around Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur hotels 21-8

When it comes to getting around the city of Kuala Lumpur, travelers have several options of getting around. Whether it’s by train or taxi, transportation around the city is relatively hassle-free.

Here are some transport suggestions for getting around KL.

Train

With the recent completion of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), more parts of KL are now connected by rail. Apart from the MRT, other rail service include the Light Rail Transit (LRT), monorail and KTM Komuter.

The trains in the city pass through iconic attractions such as KLCC, Central Market and Muzium Negara.

If you’re on a long visit, consider purchasing the Touch ‘N’ Go card or weekly passes for cheaper fares. The card can be used on all trains, as well as RapidKL buses.

Bus

Travelling by bus in the city is a generally comfortable experience these days. Most of them are fully air conditioned and they get you to popular tourist attractions as well as quaint neighbourhoods. Look out for the free purple Go KL buses within the central business district that run along popular sites and famous shopping districts. You can also travel further on the RapidKL buses.

Go KL City Bus is a free bus service that serving the city centre of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Taxi

Taxi is probably one of the most convenient ways to travel from one place to another in KL. Always insist on using the metre – do not be duped into haggling for a price.

According to the Land Public Transport Commission, regular budget taxis (usually painted in red and white, or red and blue) charge RM3 for the first three minutes. Subsequent distance or time are charged at RM0.25 every 200m or 36 seconds.

Blue cabs (Teksi Eksekutif) and gold cabs (Teks1M) are better for large groups, but they do charge a higher fee.

Taxis queue along KL Sentral in the city. Photo: The Star

Self drive

KL is a big city and having a car would allow travellers to get to surrounding townships such as Petaling Jaya or Shah Alam in Selangor easily. There are plenty of car rental options available online or at the airport. Driving in the city is generally safe. You might want to avoid peak hours though when traffic congestion can set you back an hour on average.

Driving around KL is relatively breezy, just be sure to avoid rush hours! Photo: The Star

Ride hailing

Malaysia actually has a few ride-hailing options, with Grab being one of the more popular options among locals. Utilising the service is as easy as downloading an app. The downside is you would need mobile data or WiFi to operate the service. But that shouldn’t be an issue as more people are connected on their travels these days.

You can also book taxis, trains, and more …  on some of these apps.

#Bangkok – Khaosan vendors to ‘disobey’ orders from Monday

Khaosan Road vendors will resort to “civil
disobedience” from Monday if Bangkok authorities do not allow them to
sell their wares during daylight hours, a leader of the Khaosan Road
Street Vendors Association said.

“We will defy the order and set our stalls up at the usual time,” Yada Pornpetrumpa said. 

The vendors are also planning to march to the capital’s City Hall at
around 11.30am on Monday to seek permission to sell their wares during
the day.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) banned street vendors from
trading during daytime since August 1. Though the BMA is coming up with
a new regulation to allow trading from 4pm to midnight, vendors at
present can only conduct their business from 6pm. 
https://12go.asia/?z=581915

 This time limit has meant a huge drop in income for daytime traders,
largely because they have to hand their stalls over at 8pm to vendors
who sell at night, Yada explained. 


“It’s like we set our stalls up for nothing. Now, we [daytime vendors] make only Bt500 or Bt1,000 daily,” she added. 

According to the 1992 Public Cleanliness and Orderliness Act, vending on
the street is illegal. However, since Khaosan Road is known the world
over for its vibrant street market, the City Hall decided to draft a
municipal order allowing vendors to take over the Khaosan Road footpaths
from 4pm to midnight. 

Khaosan vendors, however, said this order would cripple vendors who make
a living by selling trinkets to backpackers and Chinese tourists during
the daytime. 
Source – TheNation

 

#Indonesia – Tourist exodus from Lombok as quake toll hits 98

Lombok Exodus

Mataram, Indonesia – Terrified holidaymakers rushed for boats and planes to leave Indonesia’s Lombok island Tuesday after it suffered a second deadly quake within a week, while rescuers struggled to reach hard-hit areas where survivors are in urgent need of food and shelter.

    The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake killed at least 98 people and destroyed thousands of buildings in Lombok on Sunday, just days after another deadly tremor surged through the holiday island and killed 17.

    Rescuers on Tuesday resumed the search for survivors, and to recover the bodies of victims in the rubble of houses, mosques and schools destroyed in the latest disaster.

    More than 20,000 people are believed to have been made homeless on Lombok, with 236 severely injured, and authorities have appealed for more medical personnel and basic supplies.

    Emergency crews were Tuesday working through the wreckage of a collapsed mosque in the northern village of Lading-Lading, where authorities fear a number of people are trapped.

    At least one body has been recovered from the rubble of the mosque, which was reduced to a pile of concrete and metal bars, with its towering green dome folded in on itself.

Some 4,600 tourists have been evacuated from the Gili Islands, three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands that lie off the northwest coast of Lombok and are popular with backpackers and divers.

Hundreds crowded onto its powder-white beaches on Monday, desperately awaiting transport off the normally paradise destination. Seven Indonesian holidaymakers died on the largest of the three, Gili Trawangan.

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Margret Helgadottir, a holidaymaker from Iceland, described people screaming as the roof of her hotel on one of the islands collapsed.

“We just froze: thankfully we were outside,” she told AFP tearfully from a harbour in Lombok to where she had been evacuated. “Everything went black, it was terrible.”

Hundreds of weary tourists continued to arrive with their baggage at Bangsal harbour, the main link between Lombok and the Gilis, on Tuesday.

Some said they felt stranded and complained about a lack of coordination and affordable transport to the tourist hub of Senggigi or Lombok’s airport, where dozens slept on the floor overnight awaiting flights out.

“There’s a massive rush of people wanting to get out of Lombok because of unfounded rumours, such as of a tsunami,” Muhammad Faozal, the head of the tourism agency in West Nusa Tenggara province, told AFP.

“We can help tourists to get to the airport but of course we can’t buy them tickets for free,” he said, adding that authorities were providing free accommodation, food and transport to those in need.

Lombok airport’s general manager said airlines had been laying on extra flights since Monday and that his staff had been providing stranded passengers with blankets and snacks.

“We have been doing our best to manage the tourists flocking the airport,” he told AFP. “We are doing our best so we can fly out as many as possible.”

Immigration authorities said that seven foreigners — from Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, South Korea and the United States — were injured in the quake and are being treated in hospital.

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Sunday’s shallow tremor sent thousands of residents and tourists scrambling outdoors in Lombok, where many spent the night as strong aftershocks including one of 5.3-magnitude rattled the island.

The quake knocked out power in many areas and parts of the island and remained without electricity on Tuesday.

A lack of heavy equipment and shattered roads have hampered efforts to reach survivors in the mountainous north and east of the island, which had been hardest hit.

Najmul Akhyar, the head of North Lombok district, estimated that 80 percent of that region was damaged by the quake.

Hundreds of bloodied and bandaged victims have been treated outside damaged hospitals in the main city of Mataram and other badly affected areas.

Patients lay on beds under wards set up in tents, surrounded by drip stands and monitors, as doctors in blue scrubs attended to them.

“What we really need now are paramedics, we are short-staffed. We also need medications,” Supriadi, a spokesman for Mataram general hospital, told AFP on Monday.

Indonesia, one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations, straddles the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

In 2014, a devastating tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

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#Laos – Buddha Park Vientiane Undergoes Makeover

Buddha Park Vientiane 1

Vientiane Capital’s Buddha Park (Wat Xiengkhuan) has just received a makeover. How refreshing!

Visitors will now be able to stroll around the park in clean, paved cement pathways as they enjoy the breathtaking sights of the amazing sculpture park with more than 200 religious statues. Travelers will also appreciate the improved lawn and gardening work made within the vicinity. Upgrades are soon to be made to the front parking area as well.

According to many tourists, the ideal place for a great Instagrammable photo-op is from the top of the giant gourd structure which is approximately three stories high. The entrance is designed to resemble a demon’s mouth (about three meters high) with a stone ladder inside leading to a magnificent view of the entire park.

Buddha Park Vientiane 2

According to Visit-Laos.com, Buddha Park Vientiane was built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a monk who studied both Buddhism and Hinduism. This explains why his park is full not only of Buddha images but also of Hindu gods as well as demons and animals from both belief systems.

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The most outstanding ones include Indra, the king of Hindu gods riding the three-headed elephant (also known as Erawan and Airavata), a four-armed deity sitting on a horse and an artistic deity with 12 faces and multiple hands, each holding interesting objects. They are all equally impressive not only because of their enormous size but because they are full of fascinating details and interesting motifs.

Buddha Park Vientiane 3

Recommended by Laotian Times

 

Indonesia – Five beaches to visit in West Sumbawa

West Sumbawa

West Sumbawa regency in West Nusa Tenggara is a must-visit destination for beach lovers.

Here, tourists can explore many different beaches, including big-wave beaches for surfers, a hidden beach for leisure and a beach with a scenic sunset for avid Instagram users.

Below is the list of West Sumbawa’s best beaches, as compiled by tempo.co 

Benete Beach

Benete Beach is located near to global mining giant PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara’s harbor.

The beach is known for its breathtaking sunset, making it suitable for avid Instagram users.

In the evening, both aspiring and professional photographers can capture the beauty of the beach with colorful lamps and ships in the background.

Lawar Beach

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