By Brian King
Luang Prabang, Laos, August 23, 2017
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 elsewhere in the region, 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.