VIENTIANE, May 25 (Xinhua) -- China-Laos railway has opened up opportunities for Laos' economic development and boosted the tourism industry in the country, which is its top priority in revitalizing the economy.
Lao researchers are optimistic about the growth of the Lao economy, which is projected to expand 4.5 percent in 2023.
The economic growth will be driven by the services sector in association with the growth of tourism and processing industries and agricultural production for export, according to a recent report from the Lao Academy of Social and Economic Science (LASES).
The reopening of China and the launch of the cross-border China-Laos railway have significantly bolstered regional trade and people-to-people exchanges.
The services sector is expected to grow at 4.8 percent in 2023, driven by the recovery of the tourism sector, wholesale and retail trade, restaurant and hotel services and the logistics sector.
The China-Laos railway started cross-border passenger services between the Lao capital Vientiane and Kunming, the capital city of southwest China's Yunnan province, on April 13. The first group of Chinese tourists, numbering more than 200 in total, arrived in Laos after traveling on the first cross-border train.
Speaking at the launching ceremony of the cross-border train service, Lao Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Suanesavanh Vignaket said that the Lao government hopes the China-Laos railway will create an economic corridor that generates income for the nation, as well as brings more tourists to Laos from within the region and beyond.
The new cross-border train service has been widely advertised internationally, as part of integrated passenger transport services to promote tourism in Laos, which is at the center of ASEAN countries' economic links with China.
The railway has handled 13,310 cross-border passenger trips since the launch of its passenger service.
As the China-Laos railway becomes a crucial factor in facilitating travel, the Lao tourism authorities anticipate that around 368,000 Chinese travelers will visit Laos in 2023, up 21 percent compared to 2022.
The China-Laos railway is a docking project between the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Laos' strategy to convert itself from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub.
Meanwhile, the China-Laos railway will lay a new foundation for the introduction of foreign investment, and Laos will take the opportunity to participate in regional and global industrial chains.
Since its operation in December 2021, the China-Laos railway has been increasingly used for cross-border transport among countries in the region, thanks to its cost-effective services.
The China-Laos railway transported nearly 6.7 million tons of cargo from January to April in 2023, up 156 percent year on year. This has brought the total cargo volume transported by the railway since it began operation to more than 20 million tons.
Of the cargo transported, the volume of cross-border transportation topped 4 million tons, worth about 17.7 billion yuan (about 2.54 billion U.S. dollars), according to the China Railway Kunming Group Co., Ltd.
In addition, Lao entrepreneurs are exploring more business opportunities brought by the railway.
President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) Oudet Souvannavong met a delegation from the Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd. (LCRC), a joint venture based in the Lao capital Vientiane responsible for the operation of the railway's Lao section, on May 15, to discuss various projects related to business cooperation plans.
The Lao business community has been encouraged by sizable profits arising from the use of freight trains of the China-Laos railway.