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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Luang Prabang benefits from Thai turmoil

Luang Prabang's tourism industry has benefited from recent political turmoil in Thailand as increasing numbers of tourists choose to visit the province, according to a business representative.

Luang Prabang's Hotel, Guesthouse and Restaurant Association President, Mr Khoun Chanthaboupha, yesterday said political unrest in Thailand caused many tourists to reschedule or cancel their holidays to Bangkok and travel to the World Heritage listed city instead.

“We were unable to provide sufficient accommodation for visitors over the New Year period, with some tourists having to sleep at the bus station,” he said.

Mr Khoun said almost 3,000 beds in Luang Prabang town were currently fully booked and more than 50 percent of hotel and guesthouse rooms were booked between now and the end of the tourist season in July.

“We expect more tourists will visit the city over the peak tourist season,” he said.

He said the town was a popular tourist destination because it was beautiful, peaceful and safe, and its residents were kind and welcoming.

Mr Khoun said the increasing tourist numbers had eased fears the global economic slowdown and political situation in Thailand would hurt tourism in the city.

“We have felt no real impact from the global financial crisis so far,” he said.

About 60 percent of tourists were forced to cancel their trips to Luang Prabang during the recent week-long closure of Thailand 's main airport, which is a vital hub for regional transit, according to a report from the association.

Mr Khoun said Luang Prabang was still a very popular destination for international tourists, so there was no need for the association to reduce the price of hotel and guesthouse rooms to try and encourage domestic tourism.

According to a report from Thai media, hotels and guesthouses in Chiang Mai (northern Thailand ) have lowered their rates in an effort to boost domestic tourist numbers.

In Luang Prabang, the price of guesthouse rooms ranges from 50,000 kip to 500,000 kip per room per night, while hotel rooms cost between 50,000 kip and 5 million kip, Mr Khoun said.

Luang Prabang Tourism Department Deputy Director, Mr Khamtan Somphanvilay, said the city would remain popular due to its unique architecture and nearby natural attractions.

Mr Khamtan said a stable tourism sector would encourage investment in the industry in times of economic difficulty, with eight different businesses currently expressing an interest in investing in tourism facilities in the province.

By Ekaphone Phouthonesy
(Latest Update January 06, 2008)

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