Luang Prabang airport upgrade takes off

A project to expand Luang Prabang International Airport broke ground on Saturday with the government aiming to provide better facilities and build confidence among international airlines.

The improvements are in response to the growing number of tourists visiting Laos’s second city to experience the many attractions of the World Heritage town.

The government of China is providing a low-interest loan to build the airport.

The airport expansion will cost more than US$86 million and will take 52 months to complete. The project will be operated by China CAMCE, a Chinese construction company.

A ceremony to mark the start of construction was held at the airport and attended by Luang Prabang provincial Governor Bounheuang Duangphachan, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport Sithong Thongkeo and other high-ranking officials.

Deputy Director General of the ministry’s Civil Aviation Department, Mr Vanpheng Chanthaphone, said the upgraded airport will be able to accommodate bigger aircraft, especially Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s, in response to national development needs.

A new runway, made of concrete and measuring 2,900m by 45m, will be built as part of the project. New taxiways and a new passenger terminal, covering an area of 9,800 square metres, will also be built.

The existing airport can only accommodate 72- and 60-seater ATR aircraft and the runway is only 2,200m in length.

Officials say safety standards and commercial activities will improve following the completion of the project.

There are currently flights between Luang Prabang and neighbouring countries including Thailand and Vietnam.

The number of foreign tourists to the province reached around 245,000 people in 2009, a 5.38 percent increase from the year before.

Officials believe more tourists will travel to Laos by air once the airport expansion is complete.

Source: Vientiane Times
June 01, 2010

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