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Luang Prabang Tourism: Positive Evolution in 2016 thanks to Growing Long-Haul Markets

June 8, 2017 Destination ASEAN No Comments Email Email

While Lao PDR registered a decrease of 10% in total international arrivals in 2016–mostly due to a contraction in tourist arrivals from neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, Luang Prabang broke a new record in tourist arrivals last year, up by almost 6% over 2015.

 With its exceptional cultural and historical heritage, Luang Prabang is a major tourism destination in Lao PDR. The city experienced a strong increase in international tourist arrivals following its inception into UNESCO World Heritage List back to 1995.

While Lao PDR received 4,239,000 foreign tourists in 2016 (-9.5% compared to 2015), Luang Prabang welcomed over 469,000 foreign travellers, a growth of 5.3% compared to last year. The destination has experienced a steady growth in, total foreign visitors’ arrivals. Between 2010 and 2016, international tourist arrivals increased by 205%.

The good performance of Luang Prabang compared to other destinations in Lao PDR is due to the high share of overseas travellers to the Province. While overseas arrivals represented 8.43% of all international arrivals to Lao PDR in 2016, overseas arrivals to Luang Prabang represented 60.1% of all international arrivals to the Province.

The opening of more non-stop international flights as well as more international hotel chains and boutique hotels will continue to have a positive impact on Luang Prabang tourism evolution in the years to come. In 2017, Luang Prabang is likely to pass for the first time the half-million foreign tourist arrivals’ mark.

Luang Prabang market share in Lao PDR total arrivals has been growing over the last few years.

Luang Prabang total arrivals generated 6.3% of all international visitors’ arrivals back to 2014, reaching 7.6% in 2015 and 9.5% in 2016. Luang Prabang is now Lao PDR third most visited province by foreign travellers in 2016 after Vientiane Capital and Savannakhet. The province moved up by three ranks, taking over Champassak, Vientiane Province and Khammouane last year.

Top Visitors Markets to Luang Prabang by Nationality in 2016

Country Total Arrivals Growth 2016/2015


Market share in total foreign arrivals (%)
Total domestic + Int’l 643,319 5.88  
Total International 469,586 5.32 100
China PRC 63,290 4.11 13.48
Thailand 61,406 0.33 13.08
South Korea 34,178 1.77 7.28
UK 33,568 4.06 7.15
France 31,330 4.66 6.67
Germany 30,144 4.34 6.42
USA 28,560 3.50 6.08
Canada 21,856 5.88 4.65
Australia 21,672 10.90 4.62
Japan 18,073 -6.00 3.84
Russia 14,605 2.41 3.11
Switzerland 9,246 2.80 1.97

(Source: Lao Tourism Development Department)

Luang Prabang Visitors Origin by Region in 2016 (in %)

(Source: Lao Tourism Development Department) 

Most Visited Provinces in Lao PDR by Total Arrivals (domestic and international) in 2016

Province Arrivals Evolution 2016/2015
Vientiane Capital 1,643,892 -5.41%
Savannakhet 866,630 -22.6%
Luang Prabang 643,319 5.88%
Champassak 621,870 1.80%
Vientiane Province 589,948 5.17%
Khammouane 538,037 3.66%

(Source: Lao Tourism Development Department)


Growing air transport connection also explains the continued growth in international air arrivals. Luang Prabang airport was modernized in 2012 with a new terminal and an extended runway which can now accommodate aircraft such as the Airbus A320. The airport welcomed in 2016 over 500,000 passengers and had regular flights to nine destinations from six airlines.

Last year, direct tourist arrivals at Luang Prabang International Airport reached a new record at 140,598, a jump of 14.60% over 2016. This excellent performance was due to the opening of new routes with the AirAsia Group launching two routes to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur and Silk Air launching weekly services to Singapore. This year will see the launch of a new route to Hong Kong by Air Hong Kong Express and more charter flights to China (Chengdu and Kunming). The airport accounted for 22% of all arrivals and for 30% of all international arrivals to the Province in 2016.

In 2016, Luang Prabang-Vientiane and Luang Prabang-Bangkok had the highest seats’ capacity, respectively of 15,500 and 11,500 seats/month.

By 2022, Luang Prabang will be linked to China PRC and Vientiane by a new 417-km long high speed rail built with the support of China.


In 2016, Luang Prabang had 49 hotels and 249 guest houses representing a total of 4,844 rooms and 6,900 beds. Hotels alone had a capacity of 3,474 beds in 2,340 rooms. Luang Prabang has Lao PDR largest hotel capacity after Vientiane Capital.  With Khammouane Province, Luang Prabang room occupancy is the highest in the country, reaching on average 75% in 2016 (up by two percent points over 2015) compared to 61% nationwide and 56% for Vientiane Capital.

International chains include AccorHotels (M-Gallery and Sofitel), Aman Resorts and Victoria Hotels & Resorts. A Pullman Hotel (Accor) is planned.

Luang Prabang Province Capacity Evolution in Accommodation 2012-2016

(Source: Lao Tourism Development Department)

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