Rumours of multi-country visas and joint tourism packages have been abounding in ASEAN recently but it looks like one idea is starting to pick up some steam: a Thailand-Laos joint tourism masterplan.
After successful discussions were held this week between Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and Laos PM Thongloun Sisoulith, it was decided that future tourists visiting Thailand will be able to expand their travels into neighbouring Laos, reports the Bangkok Post.
No details were revealed on the logistics of this ‘two countries, one destination’ masterplan, although one would assume that it would involve some sort of Laos tourist visa dispensation for people holding a tourist visa or visa exempt stamp for Thailand.
These discussions came about after the June meeting of the CLMVT Forum — Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand forum — where it was proposed that the countries look into the merits of free borders within the region in order to boost tourism figures.
A single multi-country visa was proposed instead of a separate one for each individual country, which adds layers of hassle and bureaucracy to travel that many tourists are keen to avoid.
Travellers flying into Laos from Thailand will be aware of the extra time and energy needed for a Laotian visa to enter at Vientiane, for instance: a long queue for visa-on-arrival that requires payment in US dollars — with no discernible ATMs in the vicinity.
It looks as though this initial Thailand-Laos agreement could be the first step towards cutting through the red tape and tapping into the tourism potential.
The two countries already have infrastructure in place to support the increase tourism numbers between the country, with recent reports showing that low-cost carrier AirAsia are currently seeking to add additional flights on to their Bangkok – Vientiane, Bangkok – Luang Prabang routes.
AirAsia only launched the routes back in March of this year, and are already primed to expand it to other Thai cities, like Phuket.
Luang Prabang and Vientiane, the ancient and modern capitals of Laos, are the most popular spots with travellers on the Southeast Asian trail, with many youthful backpackers taking a short stop-off in the town of Vang Vieng too — a former party destination that’s reinventing itself as a riverside adventure destination.
The aim of the joint masterplan is to boost tourism numbers to Thailand and Laos.
Would you expand a Thailand holiday to a few extra days in Laos?