Published: 20:59, June 25, 2024
Laos to waive visas for Chinese tourists
By Yang Han
Laotian Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Darany Phommavongsa speaks to a group of 25 journalists from China and the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Vientiane, June 24, 2024. (JIANG JIAXUAN / CHINA DAILY)

VIENTIANE – Amid the success of the Laos-China Railway in further connecting the two countries, the Laotian government will soon announce a visa-free policy for Chinese tourists as part of Visit Laos Year 2024, according to an official.

Lao Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Darany Phommavongsa said that the government will confirm the policy before the end of June.

“The policy will be mainly focused on the travelers that are accompanied by travel agents,” Darany added.

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Darany was speaking on Monday with a group of 25 journalists from China and the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The journalists are on an eight-day media tour along China-Laos Railway organized by the Chinese Mission to ASEAN and China Daily, which began on June 23.

With tourism being a key priority of the country’s socioeconomic growth, Laos has designated this year as Visit Laos Year.

Under the slogan “Laos: A Paradise of Culture, Nature and History”, the program aims to promote tourism and attract more international tourists to visit the country.

“The opening of the Laos-China Railway has made a great contribution to the Visit Laos Year 2024 in facilitating the travel of both domestic and international tourists, allowing tourists to have fun and a good travel experience,” said Darany.

The Laos-China Railway Company — the China-Laos joint venture running the railway's Laotian section — has actively cooperated in providing tourism services, Darany said.

She also noted that they participated in a tour program along the railway route to promote Lao’s tourism products and tourist destinations.

“Since we have operated the railway, the number of visitors keeps increasing dramatically,” said Darany, adding that she sees greater opportunities ahead as the railway route is expected to be connected to Thailand and Malaysia.  

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The Laos-China Railway is “a symbol of Laos-China friendship of the modern era, a strategic project of Laos to transform a landlocked country into a connected country, making the dreams and aspirations of the Lao people come true”, said Darany.

She said the success of the Laos-China Railway is a result of the joint implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, which both countries must continue to pay attention to as they aim to achieve high-quality development and continuously upgrade actual cooperation.

“The government of the Lao PDR aims to develop the Laos-China railway to become an economic corridor that generates huge income for the nation,” she said, noting the railway has contributed to the country’s economic situation by transporting passengers both within the region and beyond.

Since the cross-border passenger service between Vientiane and Kunming in Southwest China's Yunnan province began on April 13 last year, the route has welcomed 172,023 passengers, Darany said.

“As 2024 is the Visit Laos Year, we hope that we will have more tourists coming to Laos,” said Darany, noting that Laos welcomed more than 3.4 million international visitors in 2023, a surge of 164 percent from the previous year.

China was the third largest source of tourists for Laos in 2023, with more than 600,000 visiting the country. Darany said she expects the number to further grow to 800,000 this year.

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Darany said the government is also providing short training courses to the tourism industry. These include Chinese-language tour guide training and hospitality service training for managers and staff according to the needs of the industry.  

Apart from providing visa exemption for Chinese visitors, more international visitors from targeted markets will benefit from free multiple entry visas and extending the duration of stays from 30 to 60 days, Darany said.

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