The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) launched the ASEAN-EU Blue Book 2024-2025 at the ASEAN Headquarters in Jakarta on 8 May. The Blue Book underscores the strategic partnership between ASEAN and the EU and showcases new cooperation programs under the EU’s Global Gateway strategy.

The launch event was officiated by Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary-General of ASEAN; Sujiro Seam, Ambassador of the European Union to ASEAN; and Hjayceelyn M. Quintana, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to ASEAN and Country Coordinator for ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations. Diplomats from Permanent Missions and Embassies of EU Member States graced the occasion along with staff from the ASEAN Secretariat and ASEAN-EU programs. 

The Blue Book serves as a testament to the robust and comprehensive cooperation between ASEAN and the EU with the aim of ensuring regional peace and security, fostering sustainable connectivity, promoting free and fair trade, and advancing sustainable development across ASEAN.

This year’s Blue Book also highlights the Team Europe approach and Initiatives on sustainable connectivity and green transition in the ASEAN region. Under the Global Gateway strategy, the EU has pledged to mobilize EUR 10 billion in investment from Team Europe for green and connectivity programs in ASEAN. 

‘In 47 years of ASEAN-EU relations, we have proven the strength of our strategic partnership and what we can do together in the face of global challenges. This Blue Book offers a comprehensive overview of the multifaceted and deep relationship between our regions and the commitments of our two regions to join hands in the pursuit of our common goals,’ said Sujiro Seam, Ambassador of the European Union to ASEAN.

Ambassador of the European Union to ASEAN, Sujiro Seam (Photo supplied)

‘The ASEAN-EU Blue Book continues to serve as a valuable platform in showcasing the EU’s meaningful support towards ASEAN Community-building efforts, the potential of our Strategic Partnership as well as the progress and key achievements in the implementation of the ASEAN-EU Plan of Action (2023-2027). I share the significance of the Blue Book in advancing the visibility of our partnership to generate awareness among all stakeholders in our regions,’ said Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary-General of ASEAN.

Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary-General of ASEAN (photo supplied)

Ambassador Hjayceelyn M. Quintana also conveyed that, ‘As we go through every page of the Blue Book, I invite our ASEAN and EU partners to implement more activities and projects that would further enhance our partnership.  Deepening the strategic partnership between ASEAN and EU, two of the world’s most advanced and successful regional organizations could serve as a model of partnership for other groupings around the world, which contribute to the promotion of international peace, stability, and prosperity.’

Permanent Representative of the Philippines to ASEAN and Country Coordinator for ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations Hjayceelyn M. Quintana (Photo supplied)

Highlights of the ASEAN-EU Blue Book 2024-2025 include:

  1. The December 2022 ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit and the 24th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, held in February 2024 in Brussels;
  2. The Global Gateway initiative, showcasing the EU’s commitment of €10 billion from Team Europe for green and connectivity projects in ASEAN;
  3. The October 2023 5th ASEAN-EU Policy Dialogue on Human Rights, preceded by the 3rd ASEAN-EU Civil Society Forum and followed by the AICHR-EU study visit to Strasbourg;
  4. EU cooperation priorities and updates on EU-supported projects across key sectors in ASEAN;
  5. Compelling stories from the field, illustrating the tangible impact of ASEAN-EU cooperation on the lives of ASEAN’s citizens

Download the ASEAN-EU Blue Book 2024-2025:

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/05/09/forging-forward-asean-eu-launch-blue-book-2024-2025/

https://europa.eu/!kkmHnD

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/05/09/forging-forward-asean-eu-launch-blue-book-2024-2025/

In Laos, where traditional retail infrastructure lags behind its Southeast Asian neighbors, online shopping has become a trend despite its limited e-commerce presence, largely driven by social media platforms and innovative cross-border shopping.

With a lack of established e-commerce platforms within the country, Lao citizens have adapted by leveraging social media, particularly Facebook and TikTok, as a virtual marketplace. Groups and pages dedicated to buying and selling everything from clothing to electronics have proliferated, creating an online shopping ecosystem.

Phiyada “Namfon” Ounthong, a 24-year-old employee, has been selling home appliances and clothes on her personal Facebook account since 2019 to make extra income. She explained that she opted for Facebook as her sales platform because it is the most widely used compared to others.

“Many people have started buying things online because of how convenient it is,” Namfon said. 

“Customers can select their preferred products and price, and then either collect them from a shipping company of their choice or have them delivered to their doorstep.”

Namfon added that she has her customers transfer money to her personal bank account and then deliver the products to a shipping company chosen by the customer.

Despite the slow emergence of e-commerce in Laos, some goods demanded by customers may not be available in-country. This situation forces Lao people to navigate the complexity of the problem by using middlemen to facilitate cross-border shipping. For instance, many buyers have found ways to purchase and receive products from Thai e-commerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada, which do not typically deliver to Laos.

Dokfa Malaythong, a 23-year-old resident of Vientiane Capital, often shops in Thailand and appreciates the diverse range of products available there compared to Laos.

“In Thailand, they have unique clothing styles that I like but can’t find in Laos,” Dokfa said. “One of my most unique purchases from Thailand was an LED clip-on reading light, something Laos doesn’t offer.”

She explained that some people in Laos even buy food and food-related products from Thailand, showing the diverse needs of Lao people that go beyond what their own country offers.

“I order and pay for the products on the official e-commerce website before paying the middleman to retrieve them for me,” Dokfa added. Without revealing the middleman’s identity, she mentioned that her products usually arrive at a storage room provided by the middleman, where she goes to retrieve them and complete her purchases.

E-commerce has become increasingly popular in Laos, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend has led the Lao government to recognize the importance of establishing clear regulations to safeguard investors. The introduction of a new decree to support e-commerce growth has bolstered trust in digital transactions among both businesses and consumers.

Latthana Douangboupha, the deputy director general of the SMEs Promotion Department in the Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce, highlighted the importance of e-commerce in empowering SMEs during a seminar in Vientiane on 15 September last year. The seminar aimed to develop e-commerce policies and strategies to strengthen SMEs in the digital era, with government officials and representatives from various Lao companies gathering to exchange knowledge and experiences in e-commerce and digital business. 

Despite the apparent success of online shopping in Laos, challenges remain. The reliance on social media and informal cross-border arrangements can be risky, with issues such as fraud and product quality concerns being raised. Furthermore, the lack of a formal e-commerce system within Laos limits the potential for growth and the establishment of consumer protections that are standard in more developed e-commerce markets.

Laos’ online shopping landscape presents a unique case study in the evolution of e-commerce in developing countries. As online shopping continues to grow in popularity, there is a pressing need to develop formal e-commerce regulations within Laos to ensure consumer protection and sustainable growth.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/05/09/laos-embraces-online-shopping-via-social-media-cross-border-innovation/

Tour guide wearing a mask

In response to the surge in tourism, Laos is ramping up efforts to ensure tour guides are well-equipped, as many currently lack adequate training. 

Deputy Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism Darany Phommavongsa spearheaded discussions on this issue, highlighting the importance of preparing guides for the influx of visitors. 

A training course, scheduled from 6 May to 19 July in Vientiane Capital, will focus on imparting essential skills for guiding tourists across Laos’ key sites, blending classroom teachings with practical field exercises. Darany emphasized the critical need for proficient guides to maintain high standards and curb the unlawful practice of foreign guides taking local positions.

The primary goal of this course is to prepare tour guides to meet the increasing demands of domestic tourism. Since Laos officially reopened after the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2022, there has been a rapid increase in tourist numbers, with around 3.4 million visitors recorded in 2023 alone. Popular destinations such as Vientiane Province’s Vang Vieng, Feuang District, Luang Prabang, and Champasack Provinces have seen significant increases in visitor numbers.

Alongside this tourism growth, the sector is facing operational challenges due to a shortage of skilled workers, particularly tour guides. There is a specific lack of guides who are fluent in languages spoken by tourists from various countries, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, English, and French, among others.

Darany stressed the necessity of maintaining high standards in the tourism sector and ensuring that trained guides meet the expected criteria. She cited concerns over the prevalence of unqualified foreign guides, which contravenes existing regulations.

“This job should be reserved solely for Lao nationals and we should not allow people from other countries to do this job. But to be successful, we must strengthen our capabilities in this domain to supply a sufficient number of qualified guides to cater to all visitors,” she said.

However, the issue of a shortage of tourism workers is a recurring challenge for the tourism industry in Laos, as discussed by several tourism experts in January 2023.

Jason Rolan, an American tourism expert based in Laos, echoed Darany’s statement while sharing his own. From Rolan’s perspective, Laos’ tour guide availability is cripplingly low during peak periods for certain markets. This seasonal polarity is a constant problem. “Historically, the high periods are extremely high, while the low periods are often very quiet,” he added.

“Specifically, for the Chinese market, there is a shortage of guides as the number of Chinese tourists visiting Laos is increasing due to improved connectivity. It’s time for the guide pool to keep up,” said Rolan.

According to the tourism expert, the shortage stemmed from the impact of Covid-19, which he described as “dealt an awful blow to the tourism industry,”  including tour guides. This global pandemic has driven numerous workers away to find work in other fields, as tourists could not visit Laos. After the pandemic subsided, many workers who left the industry did not return.

“The industry needs to find enough people to replace them and recruit more to supply certain markets which are also increasing,” added Rolan. 

Rolan attributed the challenges of recruiting new guides to limited guide training sessions, typically held only once per year and for a maximum of around 50 people. He also noted that most Lao people do not usually view tourism and hospitality jobs as stable career paths. 

With over 1.1 million foreign tourists visiting Laos in the first quarter of this year, a 36 percent increase from 2023, the demand for skilled guides is more pressing than ever. This surge is due to the ongoing Visit Laos Year campaign and the rising popularity of the Laos-China Railway, which traverses through tourist-rich provinces like Luang Prabang and Oudomxay.

Under the Visit Laos Year 2024 initiative, tourism authorities and businesses are enhancing services at accommodations, eateries, and attractions to enhance the overall visitor experience. 

As Laos gears up to host more tourists, ensuring well-trained guides is paramount. By prioritizing local talent, the country aims to not only meet but exceed visitor expectations, offering a memorable and enriching experience for all.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/05/08/laos-to-enhance-tour-guide-training-to-meet-growing-tourism-demands/

The first China-Laos-Thailand-Malaysia express freight train began its journey from Chengdu, the capital of China’s southwestern Sichuan Province on 30 April, and it is expected to arrive in Port Klang in Malaysia on 8 May.

Loaded with 30 containers filled with Liquid Crystal Display monitors and new energy vehicles, the train is traveling along the China-Laos railway line, traversing through the rail networks of Laos and Thailand before reaching its final destination in Malaysia.

This all-rail expedition is projected to cover the distance to Thailand in merely five days and to Malaysia in eight days, presenting a substantial reduction in transit time by approximately 50 percent when compared to the traditional sea route originating from Qinzhou City in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Industry experts anticipate that this new rail route will not only bolster the Laos-China rail services but also foster stronger economic and trade relationships among China, Laos, Thailand, and Malaysia. Additionally, it is expected to expedite the expansion of the regional inland railway network, providing crucial support for economic interactions and growth between Sichuan and Southeast Asia.

This recent development builds upon the collaborative efforts between China and Thailand in linking their railway networks via the Laos-China railway line. Notably, this integration has substantially reduced transportation durations from Thailand to southwest China, reducing the timeframe from one week via sea transportation to about one to two days.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/05/06/new-express-freight-train-links-china-laos-thailand-malaysia-in-regional-trade-boost/

Laos is targeting a significant increase in tourism in 2024, with over 1 million foreign tourists already welcomed in the first three months of the year. The top arrival was from Thailand, with 337,689 visitors, according to the Tourism Development Department of the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism.

With Thailand remaining the leading source of visitors to Laos, Vietnam came second with 263,160 arrivals in the first quarter of 2024. China, the Republic of Korea, and the United States follow closely behind, highlighting the country’s appeal to a diverse range of international tourists.

ASEAN countries alone recorded a total visitors of 620,250 while the accumulated numbers of visitors were from Asia and the Pacific. Other contributors include countries from Europe totaling 84,788 visitors, 35,191 visitors from the Americans, and only 2,539 visitors from Africa and Middle East countries combined

Laos’s appeal as a travel destination has been recognized by various travel magazines, which have lauded it as an attractive destination for “slow travel.” Its cultural attractions, outdoor experiences, and timeless charm have been singled out as key draws for tourists seeking a unique and authentic travel experience.

The Lao government is optimistic about the future of tourism in the country and aims to host at least 4.6 million international tourists in 2024, generating an estimated revenue of 1.3 billion USD. With its diverse attractions and commitment to sustainable tourism practices, Laos is poised to emerge as a leading travel destination in Southeast Asia.

To achieve its tourism goals for 2024, Laos has implemented short-term and long-term strategies to enhance its competitiveness in the region. These strategies are expected to not only boost tourism but also contribute significantly to the country’s economic recovery and development.

Laos’s tourism sector is seeing promising growth, with the Visit Laos Year 2024 campaign playing an important role in attracting visitors and displaying the country’s art, culture, and traditions. The campaign aims to not only promote tourism but also to educate tourists about Laos’s history and the sustainable use of its natural resources

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/05/02/laos-welcomes-over-1-million-tourists-in-first-quarter-of-2024/

The Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) 2024 kicked off on 25 April in Lijiang, China, under the theme “Visionary Journeys: Redefining Tomorrow’s Travel.” This prominent gathering involved pivotal figures from the travel sector across the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), which included Laos, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, focusing on transformative discussions to reshape the region’s travel landscape.

The event saw over 400 attendees, including tourism ministers, industry leaders, non-governmental organizations, the media, and private sector representatives. Discussions at the forum concentrated on innovation, collaboration, and progressive strategies aimed at developing tourism that is economically advantageous, environmentally sustainable, and culturally enriching.

Participants at the event. Photo supplied.

The keynote address by Vice Minister of Culture and Tourism, Zhang Zheng, highlighted the evolution towards sustainable and aware tourism in the GMS and advocated for enhanced cooperation to develop a regional tourism brand and improve the resilience of tourism in the area. His speech emphasized China’s readiness to enhance collaborative efforts with GMS countries to lift tourism cooperation to new levels.

From Laos, Khom Douangchantha, Director General of the Tourism Marketing Department, and Kettasone Sundara, Director of the Tourism Marketing Activities Division, were present, highlighting Laos’ active role in influencing the future of GMS tourism. Notably, Khom received the Mekong Tourism Forum flag from the Chinese hosts, marking the transition of the forum’s venue to Luang Prabang, Laos, for the upcoming MTF in May 2025. 

Aditta Kittikhoun, Senior Partner at RDK Group, sharing his insight at the summit

Additionally, representing Laos at the panel titled “Crossing Bridges, Building Connections for Cultural Integration and Prosperity” was Aditta Kittikhoun, Senior Partner at RDK Group, a Laos-based media and marketing firm. Aditta shared his expertise on the shifting digital media landscape and its influence on tourism marketing in the GMS countries, highlighting the critical role of digital communication in promoting cultural integration and economic prosperity within the region.

Delegates also gained valuable insights about culture and tourism investment in Lijiang from Kimi Xiaozhou Liu, CEO of TripAdvisor China and Vice President of Trip.com Group. Liu delivered a keynote speech titled “Visionary Journeys: Redefining Tomorrow’s Travel”, which provided a comprehensive view of future travel trends and strategies essential for the sustainable development of the tourism industry in the GMS.

Suvimol Thanasarakij, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, stressed the importance of sharing best practices and innovative strategies among GMS countries to foster a unified and prosperous tourism future. The gathering in Lijiang offers an unparalleled opportunity for stakeholders to collaborate on innovative tourism models that prioritize inclusivity and community involvement.

The forum also featured a session on “Unleashing Potential: Enhancing International Cooperation to Propel Tourism Growth”, focusing on sustainable travel as a tool to address major development challenges in the Mekong region, including leveraging digital innovations for sustainable transformation.

The MTF 2024 has provided delegates with an immersive experience in Lijiang, including a field study in the UNESCO-listed Old Town, enhancing their understanding of how traditional culture can be integrated with modern tourism practices to create sustainable and vibrant travel destinations.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/29/mekong-tourism-forum-2024-sets-stage-for-2025-tourism-event-in-luang-prabang/

Often overlooked in this region of the world, Laos is one of the biggest tourist surprise packages and a dream destination for adventurous travelers.

Vang Vieng: The Evolution of a Backpacker’s Haven

It was a warm, humid afternoon in Vang Vieng, Laos, as I was sitting poolside unwinding from the day, I looked up and saw the hot air balloons slowly ascend into the clear blue skies, which then drifted across the sprawling mountain ranges, I started to wonder if I was living in a real-world postcard.

Once a notorious ‘tubing’ tourist spot of the past, the town itself has a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, with lush green scenery, making it feel like you’re walking around on a different planet. The clean air and limited traffic provide a peaceful respite from the usual urban chaos found in other popular Asian destinations 

Vang Vieng’s history reflects a transformation from a quiet farming village into an unlikely backpacker hub located deep within the jungles of central Laos. Vang Vieng’s allure evolved with the advent of tubing on the Nam Song river. About a decade ago, the concept of riding tractor-tyre inner tubes down the river gained popularity, leading to rapid development along the riverbanks. Ramshackle bars quickly sprouted up, offering free shots of local whiskey and adventurous activities like rope swings and giant water slides. This transition turned the once-pristine stretch of the Nam Song into a bustling hub dubbed the “Water Fun Park.” 

Tham Chang caves. Photo supplied.

Another highlight for visitors to Vang Vieng are the Tham Chang caves, which are easily accessible and walking distance from town. A unique spot offering a refreshing respite from the heat and a stunning display of stalagmites and stalactites. The walking path through a nearby mini nature park adds to the allure, culminating in a breathtaking viewpoint overlooking the town and Nam Song River.

Food enthusiasts won’t be disappointed either, with the A.M.D restaurant standing out as a must-visit. This family-run establishment serves up delicious chicken schnitzel sandwiches alongside a variety of fresh extras. If you prefer to mix up your eating options, there is the Viman German Thai restaurant which has a very outgoing and peculiar chef who serves up German inspired meals. Then to wrap it all up, head over to one of the bars that overlooks the sprawling mountains. 

However, the town’s newfound fame came with a dark side. Despite the economic benefits tourism brought, it also brought challenges, including cultural clashes, environmental degradation, and social issues among locals, as the town tries to catch up with its rapid transformation. 

Luang Prabang: A Walk Through History, Spirituality, and Nature 

Not too far away lies Luang Prabang, which is only an hour and a half train ride north of Vang Vieng on the newly built high speed rail network. 

Situated on a peninsula formed by the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang is considered to be the jewel of Laos and was once a major Buddhist center and capital of the Lan Xang kingdom from the 14th to 16th centuries. Despite facing wars and economic decline, it remained the most popular town in Laos for both its history and, more recently, tourism. Laos became a French protectorate in 1893, leading to Luang Prabang being recognised as the country’s royal seat again. Today, its historic core, including ancient temples and French-built structures, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The town is also often praised for its community-led conservation efforts, work in ecotourism, and commitment to sustainability and inclusive travel. Last year, Luang Prabang received 12 travel awards under the ASEAN Tourism Standards Scheme.

Sunset view from Luang Prabang’s Phousi Mountain. Photo supplied.

But the UNESCO town is not only about history and spirituality. The province offers plenty of natural landscapes that draw visitors from far and wide. Surrounding the town are verdant mountains, flower gardens, rice fields, and waterfalls, including the well-known Kuang Si Falls and Tad Keo, which are only a 40-minute ride away.

The walking circuit around the Kuang Si waterfalls is an easy way to explore the jungle. You’ll hear the soothing sound of water as you climb. After taking it all in, you can swim nearby and relax in the sun.

Back in town, as the day comes to a close, the Luang Prabang sunsets are phenomenal. Head up to Phousi Hill for stunning views of the city and the Mekong River. Once the sun has set and you make your way down the hill, you will be guided by the bright lights into town. Every evening, the main street comes alive with food stalls and market vendors selling a variety of items. It is a popular spot where all tourists and locals come together and comfortably enjoy themselves as the street is closed off to motorcycles and cars.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/29/unlocking-laos-adventures-await-in-vang-vieng-luang-prabang/

More than 110,000 visitors flocked to Luang Prabang during the Lao New Year festivities from 10-19 April, marking an increase of 364.44 percent compared to the previous year. The festival, which showcased the rich cultural heritage of Laos, also generated an estimated revenue exceeding USD 47 million.

According to the Luang Prabang Provincial Information, Culture, and Tourism Department, the province welcomed more than 68,700 domestic tourists and over 41,500 foreign visitors from China, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Other notable contributors included Japan, the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

This surge in attendance highlights a significant spike compared to the previous year’s number of 23,749 visitors.

Soudaphone Khomthavong, Director of the Luang Prabang Provincial Information, Culture, and Tourism Department, emphasized the heightened efforts in organizing this year’s celebrations to enhance the allure of Visit Laos Year. She attributed the increased footfall to improved accessibility, particularly with the popularity of the Laos-China Railway, which traverses through Luang Prabang and other northern provinces.

In 2024, Luang Prabang has set a target of welcoming over 1.7 million tourists, with anticipated tourist spending surpassing USD 900 million. 

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/25/luang-prabang-welcomes-record-numbers-during-new-year-celebrations/

The survey and preliminary design of an expressway, linking Vangvieng district in Vientiane province to Luang Prabang province, have been finalized. This development signals an important advancement in Phase 2 of the Laos-China expressway construction, which aims to connect Vientiane to Boten in Luang Namtha on the Chinese border.

The completion of Phase 1 of the Laos-China expressway in 2021 saw the inauguration of a 109-kilometer highway stretching northwards from Vientiane Capital to Vangvieng.

During the 2023 Transport Works Summary Meeting on 9 April, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport Lan Sengaphone highlighted the focused efforts on building major highways and stressed the importance of finishing the proposed expressway connecting Vientiane Capital to Boten.

The expressway section from the capital to Vangvieng represents only 9.3 percent of the extensive Vientiane-Boten expressway. This expressway’s construction is divided into four phases.

Phase 2, from Vangvieng to Luang Prabang, has now concluded the survey and preliminary design phase. Meanwhile, Phase 3, extending from Luang Prabang Province to Oudomxay Province, is currently in the process of formulating development cooperation agreements with investors.

As for Phase 4, spanning from Oudomxay to Boten, a Memorandum of Understanding on construction has been initially signed with investors, with ongoing efforts to renew and update it.

The expressway connecting Vientiane Capital to Vangvieng has become highly popular, significantly cutting travel time between the capital and the tourism hub to just one hour, a substantial decrease from around 3.5 hours, facilitating day trips to the picturesque riverside town.

Additionally, the Vientiane-Vangvieng section of the China-Laos expressway is the first joint venture between the Lao government and China’s Yunnan Construction and Investment Holding (YCIH) Group, with YCIH holding a 95 percent investment stake and the Lao government contributing the remaining 5 percent of costs.

The expressway, operated under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model for a duration of 50 years,  represents a collaborative effort aimed at enhancing infrastructure and connectivity between Laos and China.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/24/survey-complete-for-vientiane-luang-prabang-expressway-link/

Laos is expected to see moderate economic growth this year and next year, largely driven by external demand fueled by tourism and trade, as outlined in the latest Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

The ADB’s “Asian Development Outlook for April 2024” predicts that Laos’ gross domestic product (GDP) will rise by 4 percent in both 2024 and 2025. The growth in services will be sustained by external demand, with international tourist arrivals forecasted to reach 4.2 million in 2024, propelled by improved infrastructure connectivity.

The report also highlights the role of foreign investment in renewable energy, driving moderate industrial growth. Projects like the Monsoon Wind Power, scheduled for completion in 2025, are expected to contribute to this growth. 

However, macroeconomic pressures continue to pose challenges to the country’s economic outlook.

Sonomi Tanaka, ADB Laos Country Director, noted some improvement in the economy in 2023, primarily driven by sectors such as tourism and trade. Nonetheless, ongoing challenges such as high debt and inflation have slowed down the country’s economic advancement.

In the first quarter of 2024, Laos experienced an overall inflation rate increase of 24.93 percent compared to the same period last year. Specifically, inflation stood at 24.4 percent in January, 25.35 percent in February, and 24.98 percent in March.

Inflation is anticipated to continue rising as businesses adjust prices to deal with increased expenses from currency depreciation and wage hikes, with consumer prices predicted to go up by an average of 20 percent in 2024, slowing down to 7 percent in 2025 after a 31.2 percent surge in 2023.

This inflationary trend has led to a decline in household purchasing power, particularly affecting food, hotel, and restaurant prices. As a result, more students are dropping out of school, and labor migration is increasing as individuals seek employment opportunities.

Additionally, high inflation and economic challenges have exacerbated food insecurity in the country, with one in seven people experiencing shortages in 2023. Rural areas are particularly affected, facing twice the rate of food shortages compared to urban areas. This has led to slowed growth due to malnutrition, impacting a child’s productivity over their lifetime.

To tackle these challenges, the Lao government has collaborated with development organizations to expand social assistance, enhance healthcare services, and invest in clean water and sanitation.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/12/lao-gdp-forecasted-to-grow-in-2024-2025-says-asian-development-bank/