The Lao government will not grant permission to proposed tourism projects in Vang Vieng if no sustainable development plan is available or applicable, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has told local authorities.
Some developers have submitted proposals to the cabinet seeking a green light to build tourism complexes in popular Vang Vieng district in Vientiane province.
“I have received many requests for the signing of memorandums of understanding to develop tourism sites in Vang Vieng. They need large areas of land, but I haven’t given approval,” the prime minister told provincial and district officials during his visit to Vang Vieng last week.
“I will first ask the relevant sectors if there has been a strategic tourism development plan for Vang Vieng.”
The premier’s comment is seen as hinting that development projects will not be approved unless a strategic tourism development plan has been drawn up or will be compiled to ensure sustainable tourism development.
The government is taking tough action to manage investment in the tourism industry and tourism-related infrastructure development after learning this is not carried out in line with sustainable town planning.
There is growing concern that ongoing development, which has already seen concrete buildings block views of the surrounding landscape, could negatively affect the iconic charms of Vang Vieng.
Local authorities say the Song River where visitors enjoy water sports such as kayaking, tubing and boat trips amid spectacular mountain scenery is also becoming polluted as hotels and guesthouses discharge waste water into the river.
These problems have arisen due to the absence of sustainable town planning, Thongloun noted, adding that tourism development and projects must be carried out in a way that is environmentally friendly. He said visitors want to experience the area’s natural beauty and the hospitable spirit of the local people.
Vang Vieng is well-known for its picturesque scenery where visitors enjoy trekking, mountain climbing, caving, sightseeing, and river-based activities.
“Beautiful nature is Vang Vieng’s fortune,” Thongloun said, adding that it was hard to find such spectacular natural beauty anywhere else.
The government will also look into whether zoning should be defined for each particular tourism project along with checking to ensure that developers have sufficient funds to see a project through to completion.
Discussions are also expected to determine whether action should be taken to prevent investors from monopolising concessions when it comes to investment in tourism projects in Vang Vieng.
Thongloun suggested that tourism development and investment projects should be community-based so that local people can participate in providing tourism services.
Its renowned natural beauty coupled with ongoing major projects to improve transport means that Vang Vieng is seen as a lucrative investment destination.
The under-construction Laos-China railway, which links Vientiane to the Chinese border and passes through the holiday hotspot, is set for completion in 2021.
Work has also begun on the Vientiane-Vang Vieng expressway, which is part of the Vientiane-Boten expressway that will eventually reach the Chinese border.
Officials say these developments will serve to bring even more tourists to Vang Vieng, which had more than 90,700 visitors in the first six months of this year.