Source: Vientiane Times
The first Lao Airlines flight from Vientiane to Changsha, the capital of central China’s Hunan province, took off on Friday, reviving the route after China reopened its borders and lifted Covid-related travel restrictions.
The twice-weekly flight on Monday and Friday is designed to meet the needs of the growing number of tourists and businesses in the region, bolstering trade and general economic activity between Laos and China.
Director of Lao Airlines’ Commercial Department, Mr. Noudeng Chanthaphasouk, told the Vientiane Times on Friday that the Vientiane- Changsha route was popular with many tourists and businesses before the pandemic hit and air travel ground to a halt.
“The first flight (using a Boeing 737) on Friday was 80 percent full despite the fact that tickets only went on sale two days before the flight,” Mr Noudeng said.
“Many Chinese operating businesses in Laos come from Hunan province and many of them own shops in the Xang Jieng Market in Vientiane. That’s why the Vientiane-Changsha flight is so popular among businesspeople.”
Mr. Noudeng said Lao Airlines has received a great response from the Chinese market and plans to schedule more flights to China (a market of 1.4 billion people) to promote people-to-people exchanges and facilitate business.
The Vientiane-Changsha flight is intended not only to revitalise tourism in Laos, but also to boost Laos’ connectivity with the rest of the region and rejuvenate the economy.
“Lao Airlines is keen to tap the potential of the Chinese market as it gears up for the return of Chinese tourists,” Mr. Noudeng said. Located in the middle of China and the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, Hunan province has a population of more than 67 million people. In 2019, Chinese tourists made 155 million international trips, with more than one million Chinese nationals visiting Laos that year.
Lao Airlines currently operates 12 direct flights to cities in China and ASEAN member countries. In China, the national flag carrier has resumed flights to Kunming, Guangzhou and Changsha. Lao Airlines also plans to schedule flights from Vientiane to Shanghai, Chengdu, Changzhou and Hangzhou to increase links between Laos and China and spur the growth of tourism. If these flight routes are authorised by the Chinese government, Lao Airlines will resume flights to these cities at the end of this year.
Meanwhile, some Chinese airlines are flying into Laos in response to the growth of tourism in the region. In other areas, Lao Airlines has resumed flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as well as rescheduled flights to Thailand and Cambodia and now operates regular services to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Siem Reap.