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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Luang Prabang takes steps to attract more Chinese tourists

Luang Prabang province is seeking to streamline immigration procedures with Xieng Houng city in Yunnan province, China , to boost tourism between the two cities.

The Luang Prabang Provincial Tourism Department has submitted a proposal to the Lao National Tourism Administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to consider the possibility of allowing all Chinese nationals travelling from Xieng Houng to Luang Prabang to pass through immigration checkpoints using only a border pass.

The move aims to simplify the current complicated visa procedure and bring more Chinese visitors to the province, according to the department's Director, Mr Khamphouy Phommavong.

“I believe if all Chinese tourists are allowed to enter our province using only a border pass, similar to Vientiane residents visiting Nong Khai and Udon Thani provinces in Thailand, it would significantly boost tourist arrivals from China,” Mr Khamphouy told Vientiane Times.

He said currently Chinese nationals wishing to travel from Xieng Houng to Luang Prabang are required to obtain a visa in Kunming , the capital of Yunnan province, which can take some time.

There is a system already in place to allow travellers from Xieng Houng to visit Luang Prabang using a special document instead of a visa, but the cost of obtaining the document is exorbitant and not an option for most people .

Mr Khamphouy said Chinese officials had proposed the scheme.

“We held talks with Xieng Houng tourism officials and they proposed that we introduce a policy of using only border passes instead of visas and passports,” Mr Khamphouy said.

Xieng Houng also shares borders with northern provinces of Thailand and a streamlined procedure allowing nationals of those nations to cross the border using only a pass book has already been introduced, he said.

“We have already sent an example of this kind of pass book to the Foreign Ministry and the Lao National Tourism Administration for consideration.”

Mr Khamphouy believes that the current complicated procedure means many Chinese tourists travel to other neighbouring countries instead of Luang Prabang and Laos .

Luang Prabang is a popular tourist destination with tourist arrivals continuing to swell despite the economic recession.

Tourist arrivals to the province increased from 344,029 visitors last fiscal year to 372,833 this fiscal year. Of that figure domestic visitors increased from 112,454 to 127,750, while foreign arrivals jumped from 231,575 to 245,083 people, according to figures collected by the department.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update September 30 , 2009)

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