Authorities have given the green light for a Chinese company to develop an area close to the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge crossing the Mekong River in Bokeo as part of urban development in the province.
Designed as a trade and tourism development zone, the US$100-million project will be built on a 13-hectare site with a concession period of 50 years.
A concession agreement was signed in the province last week between representatives from the Chinese company (literally translated as Boten Lao Specific Economic Development Group) and provincial authorities.
Director of the Bokeo provincial Department of Planning and Investment, Buasavath Inthavanh, represented the Lao side in signing the agreement.
Located in Huayxai district, the project will comprise a shopping centre, duty free outlet, warehouses, currency exchange unit, public park, tourists’ viewpoint, river port, hotel, restaurants and bus station.
Buasavath told Vientiane Times yesterday “The Chinese group will start construction right away, but if they don’t start within 90 days they need to report it to our authorities.”
“We have learned that this company has a strong background as they have carried out a number of urban development projects in southern China, and hopefully this project in Bokeo will be realised.”
Buasavath said the project not only aimed to convert the area near the bridge into a new town, but also attract more tourists to the province and boost economic growth.
Bokeo is strategically located in the centre of the Economic Quadrangle (Thailand, Myanmar, China and Laos) as well as the North-South Corridor (overland connection between Southwestern China and Southeast Asia).
Since the fourth bridge linking Laos and Thailand across the Mekong River opened in 2013, more visitors and vehicles carrying goods between China and Thailand have started using this route.
Nevertheless, Laos serves only as a transit route for goods and people since most tourists just pass through Bokeo province en route to China and Thailand.
As a designated trade and tourism development zone providing facilities for these activities, officials believe more revenue would be generated within the precinct as well as for the nation.
Officials said the province could become a trade and tourism hub in the northern region if facilities were properly developed for visitors and entrepreneurs.
Last year, visitor arrivals in Bokeo passed 210,000, but tourism officials said much more would have to be done if the province wanted to attract more visitors in the near future.
The Chinese company in question signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bokeo provincial authorities in February this year to conduct a feasibility study on the project as well as carry out project design and compensate 30 households affected by the project.
The result of the project survey proved positive so the company decided to move forward with the concession agreement this month.