New Air Routes to Japan’s Kumamoto Expected to Quadruple Lao Visitors

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New Air Routes to Japan’s Kumamoto Expected to Quadruple Lao Visitors

The number of Lao visitors to Japan’s city of Kumamoto is expected to grow four times bigger in the next ten years after the new airline routes between the Lao capital Vientiane and the Japanese city are launched, according to the latest estimation.

Such estimation was made at a forum, which was held in Kumamoto on January 20, to discuss the possible economic impact of the new routes, which will be launched on March 18 and operated by Lao Airlines.

Norihiro Izuno, a professor at Kumamoto Gakuen University and a forum participant, said South Korea has seen the number of visitors from Laos increasing sixfold after opening direct routes between Laos and South Korea eight years ago.

Japan could enjoy the same benefit with the new routes, and the number of Lao visitors is expected to increase to about 160,000 in the next ten years, about four times bigger than the current number, he said.

In addition, experts who participated in the forum said that the exports and imports of light and small electronic equipment and other high-value-added goods are expected to increase between the two countries, while there would be more business opportunities for Japanese firms that are interested in not only in Laos but also in Southeast Asia.

In November last year, soon after the news of the new routes came out, the Kumamoto city said it will increase its promotional efforts for the routes amid a drop in the number of passengers who use the city’s airport.

During an interview with local press, an unnamed city official stressed the importance of the new routes to Laos, adding that the city would try its best to attract more visitors to and from Laos.

A total of 7,161 people used the city airport in September, a 41.7 percent drop from the same month last year.

At that time, the official cited the stalled relationship between Japan and South Korea and the ongoing protest in Hong Kong as the main reasons that might have contributed to the decrease.

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