Attracting more tourists the key to aviation growth
The lack of tourists is among the main reasons for the closure of Attapeu International Airport in recent months, according to senior officials.
Infrastructure and tourism development serve as the foundations for developing the main draw-cards in Attapeu if authorities want to attract more tourists to the province.
Director of the provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, Ms Bounnan Bounnaseng, said on Thursday that Attapeu has huge untapped tourism potential, but lacks the funding to develop it.
“We have a lot of exciting historical, cultural and natural tourist attractions, but people are reluctant to visit them due to a lack of infrastructure, notably road access,” she said.
Among these rarely visited attractions are the Chao Xaysettha stupa, the Ho Chi Minh trail, Nong Fa Sky Lake, and dozens of waterfalls.
“We face a lot of challenges in attracting companies to develop tourist attractions.
Some developers say they are interested but in fact they just want to hang on to them so they can sell the project to another business,” Ms Bounnan said.
Nong Fa Sky Lake is about 170 kilometres from the provincial capital, but one section of road about 70km long is difficult to negotiate in the wet season because it is unpaved.
Ms Bounnan said the provincial authorities need to learn from Champassak and Luang Prabang provinces how to develop and promote tourism as these two provinces have successfully built up a flourishing tourism industry.
Every day, dozens of flights from foreign countries arrive in Luang Prabang, Laos' first World Heritage Site, and in Champassak province, drawn by their special charms.
In May last year, Lao Airlines began flights from Vientiane via Pakxe International Airport in Champassak province to Attapeu International Airport twice weekly and increased that to three times a week in July.
Months later, Lao Airlines decided to cut the route from its schedule due to a decline in passenger numbers.
Experts say that attracting more tourists to Attapeu is critical for the development of aviation. It's also important to stage regional events to draw government officials, business leaders and tourists to the province.
Ms Bounnan said road access is the key for tourism development and that Attapeu should be promoted as a transit route for tourists visiting the region.
The province is working with Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to explore tourism routes in order to link visitor attractions and package tours.
A ttapeu is a relatively poor area located in the far south of Laos.
Only about 100,000 tourists visit the province annually despite the fact that it has several places of interest to explore.
The number of Westerners visiting the province is small and the majority of tourists are Lao, Thai and Vietnamese.
By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update April 7, 2017)