Northern Vietnam province wants dual-purpose airport near popular travel spot

By Doan Loan   July 29, 2018 | 04:54 pm PT
Northern Vietnam province wants dual-purpose airport near popular travel spot
A village and rice terraces in Sa Pa. Photo by Minh Khuong
Lao Cai Province in the northern highlands has proposed that an airport be built near Sa Pa, one of Vietnam’s top tourist attractions.

Provincial authorities would like the airport to be built in Bao Yen district, about 100 kilometers away from Sa Pa, for both civilian and military purposes.

They estimated investment for the airport at over VND5.7 trillion ($246 million), not including military equipment.

The project will comprise of two phases. In the first phase, an airport with a capacity of 560,000 passengers and 600 tons of goods a year will be built by 2020.

With a budget of VND4.7 trillion for the first phase, the airport will have two runways suitable for Airbus A320, A321 or similar aircraft.

The second phase will see an upgrade to increase the airport’s capacity to 1.5 million passengers and 2,880 tons of good each year by 2030. The upgrade would cost more than VND1 trillion ($42.9 million).

Lao Cai has proposed two options for raising the needed capital. In the first, the Ministry of Transport will construct the airport from both government and private funds.

The second option is that the province will call for participation from private firms.

The airport would mainly serve tourists from southern Vietnam and southwestern China. 

However, some aviation experts have cautioned that this inflow would be unstable, when compared to the Van Don airport under construction in northern Quang Ninh province, where the Ha Long Bay and other attractions are located.

Sa Pa, which is even more popular during summer thanks to its cool climate, is expected to welcome 4 million visitors in 2020, compared to an estimated 2.5 million last year.

In the past a large number of tourists traveled to the town by train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. But since the $1.5-billion Noi Bai-Lao Cai Expressway was opened in September 2014, many have found a five-hour bus ride more appealing than an eight-hour trip on the train.

Vietnam's aviation industry has been booming in recent years. The country served more than 94 million air passengers in 2017, up 16 percent from the previous year, including 13 million foreigners.

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