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Life

Laos sees marked shift in tourist appeal

Communist state moves to boost visitor numbers amid multiple challenges to sector

Builders working in a square of tourism businesses in Vientiane. (Photo by Laure Siegel)

VIENTIANE -- It is Saturday afternoon in tourist high season, and Vientiane is very quiet. Most shops are closed for the weekend. A couple of Asian tour groups ascend the Patuxai, the Laotian capital's answer to the Arc de Triomphe. On every floor, stalls are packed with five-year-old photocopies of the Lonely Planet guide to Laos, fake antiques and communist flags, while its female vendors relax in deck chairs.

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