Indonesia and Laos look at air route

VIENTIANE: Laos and Indonesia believe tourism cooperation between the countries will be a major benefit in the long-term, but better airline connections are needed first.
Representatives of Lao and Indonesian travel agents met in Vientiane late last week to discuss the challenges and opportunities in tourism once the ASEAN 1Economic Community kicks in next year.
Indonesian Ambassador to Laos, Irmawan Emir Wisnandar, said cooperation between Indonesian and Lao travel agents would benefit both countries.
But there are some challenges such as no direct flight between the two countries, limited information regarding Laos, languages barriers and a lack of infrastructure when compared to other ASEAN countries.”
He noted that the land-locked country stands at the heart of mainland ASEAN with five countries on its borders. This will in the long-run make the country a tourism gateway if aviation grows to link neighbouring countries .
Lao Airlines and Indonesia’s national flag carrier, Garuda, are conducting a feasibility study on a proposed direct route between Vientiane and Jakarta.
A feasibility study is underway to see if there is enough business and leisure traffic to justify a service but it is unlikely to start before 2017.
Even the route between Jakarta and Bangkok is not as profitable as it was in the past as most tourists travelling to Indonesia by-pass the capital preferring to visit Bali.
Laos shares borders with China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar and is the only country that has common borders with all other members of the six-country Mekong region, which is a sub-region of ASEAN.
But its aviation industry lags behind its neighbours and it could take another five years to bring it up to speed to offer direct flights to all ASEAN-member countries.
Malaysia based-airline AirAsia, THAI Airways International and Bangkok Airways operate daily flights from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok respectively to Vientiane, while Nok Air provides three Fly ‘n’ Ride services a day to Laos’ capital from Udon Thani, 60 km south of the Thai-Lao border at Nong Khai.
Thai Airways International, using its sub-brand THAI Smile, intends to resume daily flights between Bangkok and Luang Prabang in Laos starting 1 October, this year, after cancelling flights last March.
Currently, Lao Airlines flies to 11 international destinations from Vientiane; Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Singapore Guangzhou, Jinghong, Kunming, and Seoul.
Garuda operates flights from Jakarta to Singpapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Bandar Seri Begawan.