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Laos tightens tourism law to improve safety

The Lao government is tightening the screws on its tourism law to improve safety for visitors and protect historical sites.

The amendments to the tourism law will place travel security in the hands of local authorities, while public health and noise restrictions on entertainment near communities will be tightened.

National Assembly members considered an amended draft to its tourism law late last month.

The amended draft was introduced by Information, Culture and Tourism Minister, Bosengkham Vongdara, at the fifth ordinary session of the national assembly.

Local media quoted the tourism minister as saying: “This law has not been amended in nine years and needs refreshing. It does not reflect the new policy of the party and government, or conditions of this new era of regional and international integration, open policy in trade, investment and other services related to tourism that lead to economic growth.”

He claimed that over recent years, the law caused confusion among law enforcement agencies, due to loopholes and the unclear assignment of responsibility among officials.

Laos-Lauded-As-Worlds-Best-Tourism-Destination

The new law is the outcome of an earlier ruling by the Ninth Party Congress that transferred tourism administration from the National Tourism Authority of Laos to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. The amended law seeks to regulate all tourism services and the planning of tourism development through the ministry.

VNAT’s role continues to diminish and ultimately will be limited to marketing and promotions. It mirrors developments across ASEAN where ministries have over time assumed most of the duties that were handled by government funded tourism authorities or boards in the past.

The amendments focus on key areas that impact on tourism. Food safety is at the top of agenda with new standards that will control entertainment venues to ensure food and drinks served to guests are hygienic and reasonably priced.

Entertainment venues will also have to offer quality services and a level of safety, convenience and cleanliness. They will have to comply with noise regulations.

The newly-amended law will also prohibit the construction of any facility or undertaking of any action that could lead to structural changes to heritage sites. Restoration works will be allowed at specific places such as That Luang Stupa and Ho Phra Keo.

The amended law prohibits development in areas the government has reserved for tourism industry purposes, such as camping grounds and natural viewpoints.

Investors are encouraged to develop tourism business facilities such as hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and trading zones in “service areas”.

The new law amends 33 existing articles and adds 11 new articles, bringing the total to 90 articles, while 10 parts and 19 chapters remain unchanged.

The country registered an annual growth rate in tourist arrivals of 20.36% per year from 1990 to 2012.

In 2012, more than 3.3 million foreign tourists visited the country generating more than US$513 million in foreign exchange.

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