Chinese railway could put Laos on the tourist map

Editor’s Note: Brian King is professor and associate dean at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is editor-in-chief of the journal “Tourism Culture & Communication.”

CNN  — 

Golden temples, Mekong River cruises, mighty waterfalls and nearly two dozen national parks. On paper, Laos has it all.

But the land-locked Buddhist country welcomed only around 4.2 million visitors in 2016 – a paltry achievement compared with its southeastern Asian neighbors. In that same year, there were 32 million tourist arrivals in Thailand, 26.8 million in Malaysia and over 10 million in Vietnam – all countries boasting long coastlines of gorgeous beaches.

Meanwhile, Cambodia is famed internationally for its Angkor Wat “Tomb Raider” temples, and recently opened-up Myanmar is growing its tourism industry.

Laos, it seems, just isn’t on the radar for most international travelers headed to southeast Asia, aside from young backpackers. But things could be set to change.

A high-speed rail link between Laos and China expected to open in 2022 has poised the country for a game-changing influx of Chinese tourists.

Why visit Laos?