Laos, Indonesia mull direct flights to boost trade, tourism

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Laos and Indonesia are discussing a direct flight between the two countries aiming to boost economic development, investment and trade as well as the inflow of visitors.

The two sides have agreed to operate a direct flight but the details and possible start date have not been confirmed.

A source from the Indonesian Embassy to Laos said talks were under way and it was hoped that flights would begin soon.

The small number of visitors from and to Laos and Indonesia is attributed to the absence of direct flights between the two countries.

In 2015 just over 2,000 Lao tourists visited Indonesia with the main destination being Bali.

Besides Bali, Jogjakarta is also a popular tourist destination for Lao travellers, being home to the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Candi Borobudur.

Last year, the number of tourists from Asean member countries visiting Indonesia reached over 7 million people with 1,300 coming from Laos, while the number of Indonesian visitors to Laos exceeded 4,000.

Two-way trade, which the embassy source said continued to grow steadily, reached about US$10 million last year, an increase of 17.7 percent compared to 2015.

Of this amount, Lao exports to Indonesia comprised US$4 million while imports were valued at US$6 million.

Indonesian investment in Laos was worth more than US$1 million, with the two sides undertaking various projects in the fields of agriculture, tourism, and human resource development. The Tourism Ministry of the Republic of Indonesia (Kemenpar) is targeting the arrival of 15 million foreign tourists in 2017 with foreign exchange earnings of US$14.9 billion.

This number is set to increase, rising to 20 million visitors until 2019. With this significant increase in the target number, Kemenpar is promoting Indonesia’s destinations aggressively in major countries and other countries around the world, according to the Indonesian Embassy.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Indonesia-Laos Bilateral Cooperation with the theme Robust@60: Now and Beyond portraying the hopes and efforts that the Indonesia-Laos relationship would always be strengthened be it in the economic, political, social and cultural, and especially tourism sectors.

The Embassy has organised trade fairs, seminars, photo exhibitions and a gala dinner to showcase the rich culture and close relations between Indonesia and Laos commemorating the 72nd Independence Day of the Republic of Indonesia and the 60th year of bilateral relations between Indonesia and Laos.

Laos has an “open skies” policy with many countries in the region. Direct flights are operated by domestic and foreign carriers including Lao Airlines, AirAsia, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Jin Air and Silk Air.

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