China-Laos Railway cross-border passenger service to boost Laos' economic recovery

Xinhua, April 9, 2023

This aerial photo taken on Nov. 25, 2022 shows the Vientiane Railway Station in Vientiane, Laos.  (Photo by Kaikeo Saiyasane/Xinhua)

The arrival of Chinese visitors is "a boon" for businesses that depend on tourism, said Noy Savanh, a food vendor at a night market in Vientiane, Laos.

"Chinese tourists are valued guests in terms of their large number and strong spending power," Noy said.

"I believe that the cross-border passenger service on the China-Laos Railway will bring a lot more Chinese tourists to Laos and will be a strong boost to Laos' economy and tourism," she said, telling Xinhua that she is preparing for the arrival of Chinese travelers by learning some Chinese and providing Chinese menus.

Cross-border passenger service on the China-Laos Railway will notably boost Laos' tourism, the country's top priority in revitalizing its economy.

Passengers walk to the entrance of the Vientiane Railway Station in Vientiane, Laos, Nov. 25, 2022. (Photo by Kaikeo Saiyasane/Xinhua)

The tourism industry, a main source of foreign currency, has been viewed as a key sector to bolster the Lao economy, Deputy Head of the Prime Minister's Office Thipphakone Chanthavongsa has said at a meeting recently.

The meeting called for preparations for the planned start of cross-border passenger trains on the China-Laos Railway, which has become an important driver of the Lao tourism.

The first cross-border passenger service between the Lao capital Vientiane and Kunming, the capital city of southwest China's Yunnan province, will be operational on April 13 ahead of the Lao New Year holiday, which falls on April 14-16.

More than 200 Chinese tourists are expected to arrive in Laos on the first cross-border passenger train.

Staff members pose for photos beside the Lane Xang EMU train of the China-Laos Railway at the Vientiane railway station in Vientiane, capital of Laos, Dec. 2, 2021. (Photo by Kaikeo Saiyasane/Xinhua)

In February, Director General of the Tourism Development Department Phonemaly Inthaphome presented a draft plan on preparations for Chinese tourists, outlining the general situation and future outlook concerning the Chinese tourism market.

As the China-Laos railway becomes a crucial factor in facilitating travel, the Lao tourism authorities anticipate that around 368,000 Chinese travelers will visit Laos in 2023, up 21 percent compared to 2022.

The cross-border passenger train is a great advantage for Laos because it facilitates tourist travel, Bounthone Siphone, a vendor in VangVieng, a tourism town in Vientiane province, told Xinhua.

Bounthone added that the arrival of Chinese tourists has brought hope to the recovery of the Lao tourism industry, as China is one of the world's largest outbound tourism markets. He is confident that the return of Chinese visitors would boost his sales.

A student from the China-Laos Friendship Nongping Primary School is seen on the Lane Xang EMU train of the China-Laos Railway on Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Alan Liu/Xinhua)

Also, some people are looking forward to taking a train to China when the cross-border passenger service starts operation.

"Curiosity about the train makes many Thai people decide to travel to the north of Laos. And Thai tourists will also be really interested in taking a bullet train directly to China," Thanyart Areeyat, a tour guide from Thailand told Xinhua in an interview at the Vientiane station in November last year.

Tourism experts predicted that millions of Chinese tourists will visit countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and many of them will travel on the China-Laos Railway.

Since the China-Laos Railway came into operation in December 2021, it has seen an increasing demand for its services. From January to February, the railway of the Lao section carried 417,400 passengers, up 256.2 percent compared to the same period in 2022.

On the busiest days, the railway made a record by carrying 10,197 passengers a day.

Stewardesses of the Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd. (LCRC) wait for passengers beside a Lane Xang EMU train at the Vientiane Station of China-Laos Railway in Laos on May 24, 2022.(Photo by Yang Yongquan/Xinhua)

As more passengers travel on the railway, the Laos-China Railway Company (LCRC) officially launched its ticketing mobile application on March 15, allowing passengers to book and manage their journeys on mobile devices.

Meanwhile, the Lao government is taking steps to prepare for the start of the cross-border passenger service on the China-Laos Railway to ensure safe and smooth travel of all visitors.

Lao Deputy Prime Minister Saleumxay Kommasith traveled to Luang Namtha province last month to inspect work on the railway preparations.

Saleumxay instructed all relevant sectors, including the LCRC and the Special Economic Zone in the region, to work together and ensure the new service operates as planned and runs smoothly.

The Lao government hopes to attract 1.4 million visitors in 2023, which is expected to generate more than 340 million U.S. dollars.