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Lao Airlines launches new route to Chinese city !

HANOI, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Lao Airlines opened a new route between the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang and Kunming, capital city of China's Yunnan province to meet the need of growing tourism in the region, Lao newspaper Vientiane Times reported Monday.

"The opening of this new route (on Jan. 5) will mean we can better meet the demand and change in the tourism industry, as more tourists become interested in traveling to the region," said the deputy director of the airline Leuy Bounbandit.

In 2007, Luang Prabang province, home to the World Heritage site, welcomed 320,000 visitors, including 195,175 foreigners, and generated tourism revenues of about 80 million U.S. dollars, said deputy head of the Provincial Tourism Administration, Khamtanh Somphanvilay.

The province is expected to receive 500,000 visitors in 2010, 650,000 visitors in 2015 and 800,000 visitors in 2020, and gain tourism revenues of more than 200 million dollars in 2020, he said.

Now, Lao Airlines operates four flights a week between Vientiane capital and Kunming. The carrier, currently having three aircraft, plans to purchase a new MA60 plane in the near future.

Lao Airlines transported 251,000 passengers in 2005, over 275,000 in 2006, and 330,000 passengers in 2007, the newspaper said.

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