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Laos airport can now handle 820% more foreign travelers

Southeast Asian country seeks to boost its status as tourist destination

Wattay International Airport in the Laotian capital has been expanded with loans from Japan. (Photo by Marimi Kishimoto)

VIENTIANE -- The international terminal of the airport serving the Laotian capital of Vientiane can now accommodate as many as 2.3 million foreign travelers a year, roughly nine times the original terminal's capacity.

Japanese construction company Hazama Ando, which managed the expansion project at Wattay International Airport, officially passed the terminal over to the Lao Airports Authority on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Japanese aviation services provider Jalux and trading house Toyota Tsusho agreed to a 10-year extension of their management of the international terminal in a joint venture with local concerns.

Laos is keen to become a travel destination and the expanded terminal will play a key role.

The government of Laos expects the number of people arriving in the country on international flights to reach 1.51 million in 2023.

The expansion project doubled the size of the international terminal to 25,000 sq. meters.

While the work was underway, Wattay International used a makeshift terminal to handle the growing numbers of tourists flying to Laos and then parts of the expanded terminal as the project progressed.

The airport also tore down its aging domestic terminal and built a new two-story structure with 7,000 sq. meters of space.

The projects cost the equivalent of roughly 9.7 billion yen ($87.4 million), with some 9 billion yen of that covered by a yen loan backed by the Japanese government.

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