Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR), is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Since 1975, it has been ruled by a Marxist and communist government. Its population was estimated to be around 6.8 million in July 2014. Laos is best known for its silk and local handicraft product, both of which are on display in Luang Prabang’s night market, among other places. Another specialty is mulberry tea.
Laos’ thickly forested landscape consists mostly of rocky mountains, the highest of which is Phou Bia at 2,818 meters (9,245 ft), with a range of plains and plateaus. The Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand, whereas the mountains of the Annamite Range form most of the eastern border with Vietnam and the Luang Prabang Range the northwestern border with the Thai highlands. There are two plateaux, the Xiangkhoang in the north and the Bolaven Plateau at the southern end.
The tourism sector has grown rapidly, from 80,000 international visitors in 1990, to 1.876 million in 2010.Tourism is expected to contribute US$679.1 million to gross national product in 2010, rising to US$1.5857 billion by 2020. In 2010, one in every 10.9 jobs was in the tourism sector. Export earnings from international visitors and tourism goods are expected to generate 15.5% of total exports or US$270.3 million in 2010, growing in nominal terms to US$484.2 million (12.5% of total) in 2020.
The official tourism slogan is “Simply Beautiful.” Buddhist culture and colonial architecture in Luang Prabang are worth highlighting; moreover, gastronomy and ancient temples in the capital of Vientiane as well as backpacking in Muang Ngoi Neua and Vang Vieng, ancient and modern culture and history in The Plain of Jars region, Laos Civil War history in Sam Neua, trekking and visiting hill tribesin a number of areas including Phongsaly and Luang Namtha, spotting tigers and other wildlife in Nam Et-Phou Louey, caves and waterfalls near Thakhek, relaxation, the Irrawaddy dolphin and Khone Phapheng Falls at Si Phan Don or, as they are known in English, the Four Thousand Islands; Wat Phu, an ancient Khmer temple complex; and the Bolaven Plateau for waterfalls and coffee are all a mosaic of different magical pieces, all in one attractive corner, Laos. What’s more, the European Council on Trade and Tourism awarded the country the “World Best Tourist Destination” designation for 2013 for this combination of architecture and history.
Luang Prabang and Wat Phu are both UNESCO World Heritage sites, with the Plain of Jars expected to join them. Laos New Year is celebrated around 13–15 April and involves a water festival worth experiencing.
The Lao National Tourism Administration, related government agencies and the private sector are joining efforts towards developed as ecotourism destinations.