http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/362231/new-laos-bridge-attempts-to-attract-thai-tourists Laos Friendship Bridge to woo tourists Laos is hoping that a new bridge will double the number of visitors from Thailand who cross the Mekong River to visit the neighbouring country. A photo taken in May shows motorists passing along the new Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, which spans the Mekong River linking Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai province with Huayxay town in Laos' Bokeo province. The bridge is scheduled to open fully in September. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill) Somephone Keomany, director of the Information, Culture and Tourism Department Director of Bokeo province in Laos, told the Vientiane Times that the new Friendship Bridge will give Thais easier access to Huayxay, the provincial capital, providing an alternative to the ferries which currently transport people between the two countries. "We see Thai people crossing the Mekong River by ferry from the Thai side to tour Bokeo province every day," Mr Somephone was quoted as saying. He added that Thai visitors come to the locality to visit Laos' special economic zone, the Bokeo Nature Reserve, the town and markets. Huayxay is opposite Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai province. It has a road link to the Lao-Chinese border and is a stop for tourists who travel downstream to Luang Prabang, the old Lao capital, by boat or speed boat. Bokeo is opposite Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai province. It has a road link to the Lao-Chinese border and is a stop for tourists who travel downstream to Luang Prabang, the old Lao capital, by boat. The 1.4 billion baht bridge project is being funded in equal part by Thailand and China, which have both given Laos grant aid to cover construction costs. The bridge is slated for completion in September. More than 300,000 tourists visited the northern Lao province of Bokeo last year. Six months into this year, it had already recorded more than 200,000 visitors. The Lao official said most of the visitors were Thais, followed by the Chinese. The province is also becoming increasingly popular with tourists from Germany, France, the United Kingdom and other European countries, he said. The area is hoping to attract more Singaporeans, Malaysians, Vietnamese, Japanese and Koreans. Laos is hoping to receive 3.7 million visitors annually by 2015 to help generate US$500 million (15.5 billion baht) for its economy. It received 3.4 million tourists last year, an increase from 2.7 million in 2011.