The official opening of the 2nd Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge linking Mukdahan to Savannakhet on December 20, 2006, should significantly bolster tourism between Thailand and Laos. The number of Thai tourists visiting Laos is expected to surge to 460,000 in 2007, against the record of 271,022 in 2005.
This expected leapfrogging growth in tourism between Thailand and Laos would be attributable to greater convenience in travel in light of the new bridge, plus the facilitating factors of similar languages and culture between Thailand and Laos. KASIKORN RESEARCH CENTER (KResearch) estimates that in 2006 tourist arrivals from Laos may have reached some 250,000, up 20 percent over the year before, generating approximately THB2.2 billion in tourism-related revenue, a year-on-year increase of 25 percent.
In 2007, the number of Laotian tourists visiting Thailand is expected to rise by 28 percent to some 320,000, thus bringing in around THB3 billion in tourism revenue to the country, up 36 percent over the expected revenue of 2006.
Along with rising tourist arrivals from Laos, the number of Thai travelers going to Laos has also climbed rapidly. Appealing new tourist destinations in Laos have drawn great interest from foreign tourists including those from Thailand. Notably, Thai tourist departures to Laos in 2005 reached 271,022, more than doubling the record of 106,880 in 2004, resulting in an outflow of some THB5.109 billion.
In 2006, Thai tourist departures to Laos continued to rise, thanks to scores of favorable factors including their prevailing curiosity toward tourism destinations on the Indochinese peninsula. KResearch forecasts that the number of Thai tourists visiting Laos may have reached some 350,000 in 2006, up 29 percent, over-year, with travel-related expenditures totaling some THB6.5 billion.
In 2007, Indochinese tourist destinations are also expected to gain even greater popularity with Thai travelers, thanks mainly to the opening of the 2nd Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. Rapid surges in traffic, particularly in the form of caravan tours via the new bridge, are expected to be seen to tourism destinations in central and southern Laos, or further into Vietnam.
KResearch thus forecasts that Thai tourist departures to Laos may increase by 30 percent to 460,000 in 2007, causing the country to lose some THB9 billion in travel-related expenditures, a year-on-year increase of almost 40 percent.
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