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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Rooms scarce in Luang Prabang for Pi Mai Lao

Although there are now many more guesthouses and hotels in the town of Luang Prabang than last year, almost all accommodation is booked out leading up to Pi Mai Lao , said the President of the provincial Hotel and Guesthouse Association on Monday.

“This year, we can accommodate around 5,000 visitors, almost 2,000 more than last year, but we still cannot meet demand during this peak time,” said Mr Kounchanthaboupha Vongsaravanh.

Luang Prabang was declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as a World Heritage Site in 1995, the first in Laos .

According to a staff member at the Manolak Hotel, Ms Phone Chanthapanya, all of the hotel's rooms have been full for the last month, with most of the guests booked in by their tour groups. It is the same at the Phousy Hotel, according to the receptionist, Mr Phan Chanthavong.

However, the reservation manager at the Phouvao Hotel, Mr Phonxay Keuthbounmany, said 10 percent of the rooms are still available, perhaps because of the higher cost.

Pi Mai Lao takes place from April 13-15, but people usually celebrate for longer and visitors to Luang Prabang commonly stay there for around eight days, from April 11 until 18, said Mr Kounchanthaboupha.

Visitors had begun making reservations in January, both through tourist agencies and by individual e-mails, so that around 178 guesthouses and 35 hotels were fully booked.

Lao and Thai people account for around 50 percent of visitors to the World Heritage town on this occasion.

Mr Kounchanthaboupha assured Vientiane Times that room prices will remain the same even though there is a high demand.

The province is expected to cope better next year, when five five-star hotels, currently under construction, will be completed in time for the 25 th South-East Asian Games, to be held in Laos in December next year, said Mr Kounchanthaboupha.

According to a report given by Luang Prabang Governor Bounheuang Douangphachanh to President Choummaly during his recent visit to the province, tourism has the potential to play a leading role in the local socio-economic development process.

Mr Bounheuang said tourism is a top priority and the provincial authorities should ensure that all sectors worked with the tourist sector. Many tourist attractions have been developed in rural areas, distributing more income to local people, he added.

“We have cooperative tourist links with many countries. This is proving to be very effective because the number of tourists has been increasing yearly,” he said.

Some 15 flights land at the Luang Prabang airport every day. Income earned from the issuing of visas on arrival at the airport during the first five months of this fiscal year reached 5,661 million kip, a 96 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Mr Bounheuang observed that the average annual income of the residents of Pakharm village, where the night market is located in the town centre, had reached US$2,000 per person, almost four times higher than the national average.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update March 26, 2008)

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