Laos and China Launch Visit Laos-China 2019 Tourism Campaign in Latest Sign of Laos’ Tilt Towards China
On January 25, 2019, the governments of Laos and China officially launched Visit Laos-China 2019. The yearlong initiative—launched at the direction of Lao PDR President Bounnhang Vorachit and Chinese President Xi Jinping—aims to promote tourism and cultural exchange between the two countries. In 2018, 805,833 Chinese tourists visited Laos, constituting a 26 percent increase from the year before. The Government of Laos hopes the campaign will attract over 1 million Chinese tourists in 2019 and around 4.5 million visitors in total. However, concerns remain over Laos’ level of preparedness, which was the main reason for the underperformance of the country’s previous tourism campaign, Visit Laos Year 2018. Nevertheless, the Visit Laos-China 2019 campaign is just the latest indication of Laos leaning more and more towards China as relations with the United States remain strained over repatriation issues.
Laos’ Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism, Bosengkham Vongdara spoke on behalf of President Bounnhang at the launch, indicating that the event showcased the longevity of the nations’ ancient relationship and the durability of their cooperation over the last 58 years. Minister Bosengkham added that Visit Laos-China 2019 was consistent with the spirit of their comprehensive strategic cooperation partnership—now celebrating its 10th anniversary—and would help to enhance their state and people-to-people relations as well as bolster Laos’ tourist industry
Speaking on behalf of President Xi, China’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang commended the strengthening of ties between the two countries. Minister Luo characterized Laos as a good neighbor, friend, comrade, and partner. He declared that China is committed to cooperating with Laos on joint development strategies—particularly within the Belt and Road framework—and the building of a shared community for the future. The Minister pledged to encourage Chinese tourists to visit Laos and welcomed Lao tourists to travel to China
Currently, a final agenda for Visit Laos-China 2019 has yet to be published, though an earlier draft schedule of events included a China culture week celebrating over five decades of China-Laos relations, a Lao festival in Changsha and Chengdu—the capitals of China’s Hunan and Sichuan provinces, respectively—and a mid-autumn festival and Chinese cultural performances in Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Additionally, tourism authorities from Laos and China plan to discuss tourism management in the Champassak province of southern Laos.
The launch of Visit Laos-China 2019, while warmly received by the tourism industry, comes amid concerns regarding the country’s level of preparedness, particularly since a precise schedule of events has not yet been released. A delay in the publication of a schedule would prevent tour operators from advertising the events in a timely fashion and from developing tour packages. This was the case in 2018, wherein the Visit Laos Year 2018 campaign failed to meet its goal of 5 million visitors. Many tour operators attributed this failure to insufficient planning time and a delay in advertisement, as well as an inadequate level of cooperation between the tourism industry and government in organizing the campaign. Many tourism operators claimed they needed one to two years to make arrangements to accommodate the influx of tourists. Others have complained that tourists are disincentivized from visiting Laos due to an unsuitable tourism infrastructure and too many inspections and checkpoints while traveling through the country.
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and Minister Bosengkham appear cognizant of the issues that may lessen the attractiveness of Laos to tourist, and both remain committed to developing Laos’ tourist industry, which they perceive as an engine of economic growth. The Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism have pledged to take necessary measures to remove obstacles to the industry’s growth. While it is still too early to determine whether Visit Laos-China 2019 will meet its goal of attracting 1 million Chinese tourists, it is likely that the tourism industry will continue to grow given both China and Laos’ commitment to the campaign. It is uncertain, however, how tourism services and infrastructure will change to accommodate Chinese visitors.
Visit Laos-China 2019 is just the latest development in which Laos appears to be prioritizing its bilateral relations with China over other countries, namely the United States. Laos is at a key stage in its development, where it is essentially at a crossroads in choosing between Chinese and U.S. models of economic policymaking, particularly in ICT policy. There are early indications that Laos may be leaning closer towards adopting the Chinese model. This is most evident in its recent passage of the Law on e-Payments, , which requires all e-payments to go through a single national payment gateway, a more protectionist and restrictive model that allowing e-payments to move through established industry payment gateways with cross-border connections. Laos’ tilt towards China may also be due to rising tensions in U.S.-Laos relations following rapidly escalating U.S. sanctions on Laos due to repatriation issues. Regardless, the launch of the Visit Laos-China 2019 Year certainly demonstrates closer Laos-China ties in 2019, which may require greater efforts from U.S. government and firms to revitalize and elevate U.S.-Laos relations to the same level.
Flood Response Undergoes Review In Khammuan KPL Lao News Agency 22nd Jan 2019
A delegation of government officials, ambassadors and UN representatives traveled to Khammuan Province on Jan 21-22 to monitor progress in implementing an emergency grant the Lao PDR received from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) last October. The US$3.5 million grant was given to the Lao PDR to provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of last year’s devastating floods in Khammuan. The implementation of the grant is currently at its halfway point and the purpose of the mission was to evaluate the results achieved so far. The two-day schedule will include meetings with local government officials as well as chiefs and inhabitants of the villages benefiting from the grant. The flood response activities have been coordinated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare with the support of four UN agencies – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO).
Pay the minimum wage or face legal action, employers told Vientiane Times 17th Jan 2019
Employers in Laos will be subject to legal action if authorities discover they are failing to pay their workers the minimum wage. The minimum wage was increased last year from 900,000 kip to 1.1 million kip a month for a standard eight-hour day, in a bid to keep pace with the rising cost of living. A senior official from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare said that under this government-mandated minimum wage, no worker should be paid less. The new wage rate was brought into being by a prime ministerial order.
Govt announces list of controlled businesses Vientiane Times 15th Jan 2019
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has approved a list of businesses that are subject to government control, while also stating that types of business not on the list would find it easier to operate. An official from the Enterprise Registration Office said yesterday that from now on it would be easier for businesses not included on the list to obtain an ID and operating license. Mr Thongloun signed a prime ministerial decree on January 10 regarding the list of controlled and concession-based businesses. The decree stressed that local and foreign investors interested in operating one of the types of business listed must be prepared to comply with the relevant government controls and regulations. The controlled business list mostly includes operations related to national security, social order and environmental protection.
Govt approves special budget for flood recovery Vientiane Times 10th Jan 2019
The government has approved a special budget of 500 billion kip (US$58 million) to repair public infrastructure that was damaged in last year’s floods, indicating that the remaining recovery work could soon begin. The Ministry of Planning and Investment unveiled the approved budget at the annual conference of the finance-planning sector held in Vientiane earlier this week. The meeting served as a platform to inform planning and finance officials about the details of the budget for 2019.
Single window customs system to facilitate import-export Vientiane Times 7th Feb 2019
The government will introduce a single window customs system in the coming weeks to facilitate import and export procedures, which it is envisaged will help to improve the overall business environment. Vehicle importers will be the first group to benefit from the Lao National Single Window (LNSW), the Ministry of Finance said in its Decision. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Somdy Duangdy issued the Decision recently. It will come into effect on February 20, 15 days after being published in the Lao Official Gazette. The electronic system, which replaces the previous document system, is expected to shorten the time taken to complete the procedure and be more transparent. In the Decision, Mr Somdy suggested that authorities in charge initially implement the system at the international border checkpoint at the first Laos-Thai Friendship Bridge connecting Vientiane to Thailand’s Nong Khai province. He told the relevant state departments to issue instructions and simplify procedures to ensure the new system operated smoothly.
Lax registration set to improve Lao business environment Phnom Penh Post 28th Jan 2019
INVESTORS and business operators in Laos will no longer find it so difficult to register their enterprise after the Ministry of Industry and Commerce unveiled a new plan that will cut the registration time to 10 working days. Minister of Industry and Commerce Mrs Khemmani Pholsena issued the ministerial agreement on enterprise registration on January 9 and the measure will be enforced from February 1. The purpose of the agreement is to standardise business registration across the country, to facilitate business operation by reducing the numbers of steps and time taken to set up a new business, and to boost and attract domestic and foreign investment. A senior official at the registration and enterprise management department, Mrs Chiengkham Thongpasert, told Vientiane Times on Wednesday the new mechanism targets the establishment of new enterprises and business activities.
Laos Drops Tariffs On 8,000 ASEAN Products Business Times 24th Jan 2019
Top Laos officials recently announced that it is strengthening its trade ties with its neighbours. Part of this effort is the fact that the country is slashing import tariffs on more than 8,000 products produced by its ASEAN neighbours. Many trade analysts have viewed Laos' recent gesture as a way to further strengthen the ASEAN Free Trade Area. Many believe that in a time when global trade is being disrupted by isolationist agenda, Laos is embracing global free trade by dropping import tariffs on 8,546 items. Laos is setting import tariffs on these items to zero. The report was distributed by Laos' Ministry of Planning and Investment. It was unveiled recently during the annual meeting of the country's finance and planning sector held at Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. The news was subsequently published by a number of local news outlets in the country. The total number of goods which Laos added on its zero tariff list represents about 89 percent of the total number of items included in a designated list which the country trades with other member of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement or ATIGA. This was according to a recent report published by the National Socio-Economic Development.
Four held after bid to smuggle animal parts into Laos foiled The Nation 22nd Jan 2019
Laotian Katai Sisuwan, 28, Thai Thammanoon Kongdee, 44, Thai Warapong Panjam, 58, and Vietnam national Nguyen Wan Herb, 39, were arrested, police told a press conference yesterday morning. Katai Sisuwan was arrested on Saturday after investigators received a tip-off about an attempt to smuggle wildlife parts to Laos via the international Bangkok-Pakse bus route, Royal Thai Police Deputy Commander General Chalermkiet Srivorakarn said. Police stopped the bus at Amphoe Wang Noi in Ayutthaya province for a search and found a bag containing animal parts and bones inside. Experts later revealed that there were four tiger bones and 1,666 pieces of bear claws, possibly belonging to over 83 Asian black bears, a protected species. The haul was estimated to be worth more than Bt8 million, he added.
Laos: Massive budget deficit reduction set by 2020 Phnom Penh Post 1st Feb 2019
The Lao government will massively reduce or wipe out the budget deficit by next year, Deputy Prime Minister Somdy Duangdy has said. Laos has suffered a chronic budget deficit in recent years which has led to the accumulation of sizeable public debt and budgetary tension. The National Economic Research Institute says public debt has risen to over 60 per cent of GDP – a level that economists say is too high and full of risk. Somdy, who is also Minister of Finance, said international finance bodies have warned Laos to reduce the budget deficit or face possible cuts in financial support.
Lao PDR’s Macroeconomic Stability Amidst Uncertainty KPL Lao News Agency 18th Jan 2019
Economic growth in the Lao PDR is estimated at 6.5 per cent in 2018 down from 6 9 per cent in 2017, in part due to the adverse impact of the recent widespread floods. The construction of infrastructure, export of electricity, and service sector have been the main drivers of growth in 2018. The medium-term economic outlook is favorable but subject to risks, including a volatile global economic environment, according to the latest edition of the World Bank's Lao Economic Monitor released on Jan 18, 2019. "Economic growth remains robust in the Lao PDR, and the government has made important inroads on the reform front, notably on revenue collection. The path of fiscal consolidation, despite the recent natural disasters, is welcome," said Nicola Pontara, World Bank Country Manager for the Lao PDR.
Party adopts nine urgent measures to drive economy Vientiane Times 15th Jan 2019
The Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party recently adopted core and urgent measures to drive the macro economy which is currently encountering some difficulties. New state investment must focus only on projects which are economically efficient, except for recovery projects following damage from natural disasters, according to the measures. Urgent action must be taken to prevent revenue leaks, strengthen relevant legislation toward addressing budget and financial difficulties as well as closing loopholes for the embezzlement of state money by officials.
PM urges ministries to prepare for economic challenges Vientiane Times 10th Jan 2019
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith on Tuesday praised the country’s planning, investment and finance sectors and urged everyone to keep up their good performance. However, the prime minister said there were plenty of tough challenges coming up, for which everyone should be prepared. He reviewed the implementation of the government’s plan to promote investment and boost revenue collection in the wake of widespread flooding last year. The premier offered his advice and recommendations at the annual meeting of the planning and investment, and finance sectors, which also reviewed past achievements and unveiled the implementation plan for 2019.
Conference discusses potential impact of Laos’ Pak Lay hydropower project VietNamNet Bridge 15th Jan 2019
Food & Agriculture
Representatives of Mekong Delta localities, central departments, and agencies, as well as scientists gathered at a conference in the city of Can Tho on January 15 to discuss the potential impacts of the Pak Lay hydropower project in Laos, especially to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region. The event, the second of its kind so far, was chaired by Le Cong Thanh, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment and Vice Chairman of the Vietnam National Mekong Commission. Participants were updated on the progress of the Mekong River Commission (MRC)’s technical assessment report on documents related to the project. Experts also gave their ideas on the Pak Lay hydropower plant and other projects in the Mekong River and recommendations to the Vietnam National Mekong Commission. Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Le Cong Thanh said that Vietnam is paying great attention to the possible effects from hydropower plant construction to the environment and the socio-economic situation in the Mekong Delta region, which also go hand-in-hand with impacts from climate change. According to head of the Vietnam National Mekong Commission’s Office Le Duc Trung, the MRC Secretariat will analyse information from the project and consider the ideas of experts as to how to best evaluate the impacts of the project and measures to reduce them. It will then propose that the MRC Joint Committee ask Laos to make appropriate adjustments.
Hongsa Farmers Trained On Melon Processing KPL Lao News Agency 6th Feb 2019
Farmers in Hongsa district, Xaaboury Province have attended a training course to learn how to process fruits. Held at Nakenkham village, Hongsa district, Xayaboury Province on 3-5 Feb, the training was conducted by professors from the Mongkhonlanna Technology University of Thailand. The trainees were members of the Hongsa Agricultural Producers’ Association. They were taught how to make different products from melons such as melon juice, dried melon slices, and melon jams so that they can have more products available in local and export markets.
Gov’t Agencies Discuss New MIOC Decision On Timber Management KPL: Lao News Agency 10th Jan 2019
Health & Life Sciences
The government agencies held a national consultation workshop to discuss the final draft of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC)’s decision on the management and monitoring of timber input in wood processing and trade sector on Jan 10. The meeting was chaired by Deputy Director General of the Department of Industry and Handicraft Somphong Soulivanh, and joined by representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, State Inspection Authority, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Finance and the provincial Offices of Industry and Commerce across the country.
Lao flood victims battle dengue, malnutrition The Nation 4th Feb 2019
And this is despite firm agreements between local and foreign health agencies to work together in preventing disease and otherwise attending to health needs. International humanitarian teams in the disaster zone in Sanamxay district, Attapeu province, have reported insufficient food in the camps set up for disaster refugees, as well as shoddy handling of donated relief items and poor hygiene. Wan Sriprasert lost his brother and his home in the village of Ban Mai to the flash floods loosed by the dam’s collapse. He and other displaced people living in temporary shelters at five remaining camps are now facing quite different threats to their lives. “We moved into this temporary housing two months ago after having lived in tents for a long time, so we’re much happier because we have more space and at least a real roof over our heads,” Wan told a reporter touring Hadyao Camp.
Setthathirath Hospital to have major upgrade Vientiane Times 24th Jan 2019
A ground-breaking ceremony took place on Wednesday to mark the start of construction of new facilities at Setthathirath Hospital in Vientiane. The hospital upgrade is part of the government’s efforts to overhaul the country’s health services. The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong, Ambassador of Japan to Laos, Mr Takeshi Hikihara, and Chief Representative of the Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) Laos Office, Mr Yoshiharu Yoneyama.
Huaphan hospital headway cementing Lao-Viet cooperation Vientiane Times 10th Jan 2019
Construction of a new hospital in Huaphan province to further cement the brotherly relations between Laos and Vietnam is now 25 percent complete. “Work on the hospital is making good progress and the building is 25 percent complete after construction began in June 2018. Completion is expected at the end of this year,” Deputy Director of the Planning and Investment Department in Huaphan province, Mr Mayleuy Phimmasone told Vientiane Times. The modern facility with 200 beds and up-to-date medical equipment will be a huge improvement on the existing provincial hospital which has only 80 beds. The hospital will cost more than 200 billion kip (US$25 million) and is financed by the Vietnamese government with a contribution from the Lao government.
EU provides nutritional boost for Laos provinces | #AsiaNewsNetwork Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 30th Jan 2019
The project will cost 47 billion kip (US$5.4 million) to roll out in seven districts of Luang Prabang province and 16 billion kip (US$1.8 million) to implement in three districts of Luang Namtha province. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on nutrition improvement in the two provinces under the Sustainable Change Achieved through Linking Improved Nutrition and Governance (SCALING) project was signed in Vientiane yesterday. The MOU was signed by the Country Director of Save the Children, Ms Deborah Leaver, Country Director of Care International in Laos, Mr Saad Karim, Director of the Luang Prabang provincial Health Department, Dr Amphone Phalammixay, and Director of the Luang Namtha provincial Health Department, Dr Khamchanh Inthongxay. In Luang Prabang province the project will be carried out by Save the Children and in Luang Namtha province by Care International in Laos. Speaking at the agreement signing ceremony, Ms Leaver said child deprivation in Laos is among the most severe in the region, and stunting due to malnutrition affects 35 percent of children under the age of five.
Modern New Unit opens at military hospital Vientiane Times 22nd Jan 2019
Lao Military Hospital 103 has opened a new building to expand the hospital’s existing 50-year-old facilities as part of efforts to overhaul the army’s health services. The opening ceremony of the new building on Saturday was attended by Minister of National Defence, General Chansamone Chanyalath, and General Miao Hua from China’s Ministry of National Defence, along with high-level delegations from the Lao and Chinese armies. The project was financed by about US$29 million (197 million yuan) from the Chinese Ministry of National Defence. The new centre offers comprehensive treatment facilities and has been built to high standards.
Laos' Online Connectivity Lagging Behind Peers As World Bank Research Reveals Extent Laotian Times 6th Feb 2019
“Lao PDR is lagging significantly in terms of accessibility, quality, and affordability of internet services compared to other comparable regional economies,” a new report on digital connectivity states. The grim assessment comes via The World Bank’s latest report on the country’s online connectivity entitled Digital Connectivity in Lao PDR: Lagging Behind Peers. “Digital connectivity—access to affordable and reliable internet services—has become a key driver of economic and social development.”
App-facilitated Land Tax Payment Service Launched KPL: Lao News Agency 10th Jan 2019
The Department of Tax has launched a system that ensures land tax payment is bank-based, safe, and fast. “To improve tax payment mechanism and method for convenience, verifiability and ensure the integration of tax revenue information system, the Department of Tax in cooperation with a local IT company andBanque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao (BCEL) has conducted a research on bank-based payment of land taxes using smart phone app. Now, land owners can pay their land taxes using mobile banking application, BCEL One, or services provided by commercial banks,” said Mr Phouthanouphet Xaysomboun, Head of the Department of Tax, Ministry of Finance.
France to help protect Laos’ cultural heritage Vientiane Times 7th Feb 2019
A French aid organisation has expressed its intention to help the Lao government protect heritage sites and infrastructure in Savannakhet and Champassak provinces. Director General of the Heritage Department, under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Thongbay Phothisan, said yesterday that Agence Francaise De Developpement (AFD) has sent a team of French experts to Laos to set up a project that will preserve some of Laos’ oldest and most important buildings. “We completed a session with Champassak officials yesterday. Today, we will have more talks with Savannakhet officials,” Mr Thongbay said, adding that the discussions are aimed at ensuring that the two sides agree on the parameters and scope of the project. Mr Thongbay told Vientiane Times in a telephone interview from Savannakhet that the main focus of the project will be on restoring and maintaining temples, houses and French colonial buildings that are of cultural significance in the two provinces.
Facility Upgrade Complete At Na Phao International Checkpoint KPL Lao News Agency 5th Feb 2019
Phu Bia Mining (PBM) officially opened the company-funded upgraded Na Phao international customs checkpoint in Khammuan Province on January 30, 2019. The upgrade of LAK 19,359,000 (US$2,600) includes roof maintenance to the staff kitchen and cafeteria areas. The checkpoint connects the Lao People’s Democratic Republic with Vietnam and lies on a major haulage route for the company, with over 80 per cent of PBM’s copper in concentrate passing through the facility each year. PBM Chairman Chanpheng Bounnaphol said the donation to upgrade the facility was indicative of the company’s ongoing commitment to assisting communities close to its operations and haulage routes.
Thailand's China-backed Bangkok-Nong Khai Railway Back On Move Laotian Times 17th Jan 2019
Travel & Tourism
Construction of Thailand’s component of the regional high-speed rail network linked to China’s ambitious One Belt One Road plan is on the move again after years of delays hampered the progress of the high-profile project. A first 3.5km phase was the subject of a groundbreaking ceremony in December 2018, presided over by Thai PM Prayut Chan-Ocha. Set to link up with the Lao-China railway at the Laos border, the railway will connect Thailand’s capital Bangkok with the country’s northeastern city of Nong Khai on the Lao border, a distance of 873 km (542 miles).
Lao Airlines expects Chinese bookings to reach new heights Vientiane Times 5th Feb 2019
Lao Airlines staff believe the number of Chinese customers could surge to 241,500 this year. This would be an increase of about 42 percent compared to last year when Chinese nationals made 170,500 flight reservations. “We’re expecting a significant increase this year because Laos’ tourist attractions are becoming more well known and there are more activities of interest to tourists. These are being promoted by the government and private sectors as well as our airline for Visit Laos-China Year,” Director of the airline’s Commercial Department, Mr Noudeng Chanthaphasouk, said. “We’re also offering special promotions on tickets purchased in the early part of this year. And we have special prices for groups, which vary depending on the route,” he added.
Public officials urged to set road safety example Vientiane Times 5th Feb 2019
Vientiane policymakers have proposed that Party and state officials should set an example in adhering to traffic regulations and that those breaking the rules should be subject to an additional penalty. The policymakers listed this proposal in the draft of an administrative order from the Vientiane Mayor, designed to counter the increasing number of road accidents. The assumption is that public officials should take the lead in complying with the traffic regulations so that the general public will follow suit, thereby reducing accidents.
Lao tourism businesses urged to improve services for more Chinese tourists Global Times 31st Jan 2019
Lao local tourism-related businesses should make adjustments for more Chinese tourists that Lao government expects to visit this year, the local daily Vientiane Times on Monday quoted Lao Vice President of National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Daovone Phachanthavong as saying. Daovone said hotels, restaurants, guesthouses and travel agents should try to deliver services at prices that will meet with the expectations of Chinese visitors. "Chinese people like to shop in Laos, but local businesses struggle to provide food and goods that are to their liking," he said, adding that there is definitely room for improvement in terms of customer service. Laos and China officially launched the Visit Laos-China Year 2019 in the Lao capital Vientiane on January 25, hoping the two countries will become more enticing holiday destinations as a result of the campaign.
Visit Laos-China Year Kicks Off KPL Lao News Agency 26th Jan 2019
The Visit Laos-China Year 2019 was launched on Jan 25, 2019 in Vientiane, the capital. Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Bosengkham Vongdara and Chinese Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang together read congratulatory letters from the leaders of both countries at the opening ceremony held at the National Culture Hall. Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone announced the opening of the tourism year 2019. Based on the working plan, the Ministry of Culture and Tourist of China and the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of Laos will sign cooperation agreements and organize projects throughout the year, like tourism promotion, forums, training, cultural performances and food introduction.
Visit Laos-China Year to begin tomorrow Vientiane Times 24th Jan 2019
Laos and China will launch a major campaign this week to boost tourism cooperation between the two countries throughout 2019. Officials from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies met in Vientiane this week to discuss the details of the ceremony to initiate Visit Laos-China Year 2019. Tourism officials said a number of activities would be held at the National Culture Hall on January 25 to mark the launch of the year-long tourism promotion.