The initial impact of COVID-19 in Laos began in late March, as the government announced a state of emergency which included government-enforced restrictions such as the closure of land borders and a ban on most flights, with some exceptions for essential travel and traffic. Furthermore, Laos suspended all tourist visas until further notice to prevent the inflow of foreigners.
On 27 March the government announced a state of emergency which introduced new precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including a requirement for all people to remain at home between 1 April and 19 April, unless they were buying food or other essentials, visiting medical facilities, or going to work at essential organisations. Before this, Laos also enacted several travel restrictions including a suspension of all tourist visas until further notice.
COVID-19 has had a severe impact on international flights in Laos, with all airlines equally impacted. Lao Airlines, the main airline of Laos, ceased nearly all flights from late March until late May, with only domestic routes allowed to reopen since then.
As government regulations restricted the entrance of foreigners for majority of 2020, online travel intermediaries were forced to focus on the domestic market, a reversal from previous years where they typically targeted inbound travellers. In 2020, online booking portals such as Expedia, Traveloka and Agoda remained available to consumers and they increasingly began expanding domestic tourist packages to boost local travel.
Laos is expected to be negatively impacted by COVID-19 in 2020, although the government’s focus on expanding domestic and regional travel is set to jumpstart the tourist economy’s recovery. The number of domestic trips continued to increase in 2020 as the government invested in online marketing campaigns to target young local travellers.
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