In response to the recent Covid-19 outbreak, governments across the world have put measures in place to curb the spread of the disease and protect citizens.
Laos has so far managed to keep the coronavirus under control. As of May 12th, the nation has recorded fewer than 20 confirmed cases, the vast majority of which have already made a full recovery.
With no new Covid-19 infections in almost a month, the Laotian authorities are confident that life can soon begin returning to normal in the Southeast Asian nation.
Changes to Laos Visa Policy during Covid-19
One way in which this low infection rate has been achieved is by restricting entrance to Laos. On March 18th it was announced that all tourist visas were to be suspended until further notice.
Under normal circumstances, tourists are able to apply for a Laos visa online and stay in the country for up to 30 days. With the situation continuing to improve, it is hoped that the normal visa policy will recommence in the not-too-distant future.
The announcement that the Laos visa overstay fees were to be suspended during the coronavirus outbreak came as welcome news to travelers in Laos. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed a flexible approach to foreigners with visas that expired during the lockdown period who were unable to request an extension.
Foreign nationals heading to Laos for non-touristic purposes are able to enter the country provided they submit the required health-related documents for approval prior to arrival.
Now that the Department of Immigration has reopened, visa holders are once again required to have a valid visa and pay the extension fees for any days spent in Laos without a valid visa since 9th April. Overstay fines came back into effect from May 8th.
Lockdown Measures Now Being Eased in Laos
Given that no new cases of the coronavirus have been detected in Laos for some weeks, the country is gradually beginning to open back up, an indication that life is slowly returning to a degree of normality.
Lockdown measures had been in place since the end of March. Like in many countries across the world, residents were asked to stay indoors, only leaving for essential purposes such as buying food or medicine. Businesses deemed as non-essential were to remain closed.
It would appear that the lockdown has been effective in preventing more people from catching Covid-19. For this reason, since May 4th, some cafes, restaurants, shopping centers, and offices have been able to reopen. The wearing of masks and social distancing is still required but economic activity can now start to resume, a positive sign.
For the time being, recreational spaces such as bars, cinemas, and gyms are to remain closed and large gatherings are not permitted. The situation is under constant review by the government, the current measures will remain in place for at least 2 weeks.
Except for exceptional circumstances, travel between provinces remains restricted, with the suspension of bus services and domestic flights.
The Importance of Tourism in Laos
Tourism is important to the economy of Laos. A country of great natural beauty with unspoiled mountainous terrain and remote villages to explore, Laos attracts sightseers from all over the world.
Laos visitor arrivals have increased over the past few years. The nation welcomed over 4.5 million international people in 2019, up 8.2% on the previous year. As well as foreign nationals from other Asian nations, Laos receives an increasing number of British, American, and German passport holders.
Tourism has therefore been of increasing importance in Laos in recent years, helping to boost economic growth and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for local people.
Not only this but the rise of tourism in Laos has contributed to the development of infrastructure in the country. Airports and roads have both seen significant investment.
How will Laos tourism recover after Covid-19?
The coronavirus outbreak has hit global tourism hard, with flights grounded and visas suspended, holidays have temporarily been put on hold.
As Laos is now in the process of reopening, it is time to think about how the nation will recover from the effects of the pandemic.
travel becomes possible, international tourists will be encouraged to return to Laos to experience the landscapes and fascinating culture that so many millions have enjoyed in recent years. In fact, with so little footfall, some of the country’s most popular sites will be even more beautiful.
Luang Prabang, famed for its impressive architecture, temples, and wildlife, is one of the most visited places in Laos. The UNESCO World Heritage Site will surely benefit from this quiet period, ready to welcome travelers again once global tourism resumes.
Susan Noel is an experienced content writer. She is associated with many renowned travel blogs as a guest author where she shares her valuable travel tips and experience with the audience.