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Thailand reaps benefits of Laos' economic growth
Publication Date : 02-10-2012
Laos is set to become a significant source of tourists to Thailand as a result of growing wealth in the country, according to a Thai research study.
Thailand's Kasikorn Research Centre recently published a study showing that the number of Lao nationals visiting Thailand would reach 990,000 by the end of this year, putting Lao visitors in third place after Malaysia and China.
The number of Lao tourists visiting Thailand will see a 10.6 per cent increase compared to this year, with the expectation of generating 20 billion baht (US$650.34 million) for Thailand, increasing 16.4 per cent year on year, the subsidiary company of Thai Kasikorn Bank notes in the study.
Kasikorn Research Centre carries out tourism and business research in relation to Thailand's economy, including tourism with reliable recommendations and indicators on business prospects.
According to the study, one of the main reasons for the surge in the number of Lao visitors to Thailand is the country's strong economic growth.
Economic growth in Laos has increased by at least 7.5 per cent annually over the past five years, and Laos is now the fastest growing country in Asean. Based on the strong mining and hydropower sectors, average per capita income reached $1,200 this year.
Better land links between Laos and Thailand are also making it easier for Lao nationals to cross into Thailand for business purposes, shopping or vacationing.
There are now three bridges connecting Laos to Thailand across the Mekong River, with crossings into Nong Khai, Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom provinces. A fourth is due to open next year near Chiang Khong in Chiang Rai province.
These bridges have spurred highway upgrades on either side of the border as well as improvements to border checkpoints, which has made travel easier for both holiday-makers and businesspeople.
The Kasikorn Research Centre said infrastructure development in Laos, particularly land transport links with Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China, is changing the country from being landlocked to land-linked and it is this that is driving outbound travel.
On the other side of the coin, Thailand supplies the largest proportion of Laos' tourists, with Vietnam and China in second and third place respectively. The number of Thai nationals entering Laos from 1999 to 2011 rose by an average of 30.5 per cent each year, up from 63,800 arrivals in 1999 to 926,000 arrivals last year.
Thai tourist spending in Laos rose 18 per cent year-on-year from 714 million baht in 1999 to 10,144 million baht in 2011.
Thailand is also a gateway into Laos for people traveling within the region. However, after political instability in Thailand from 2008 to 2010 and flooding in 2011, Laos opened direct flights between Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, China and the Republic of Korea. This reduced reliance on Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport which is a hub for connecting flights to Vientiane and Luang Prabang.