The People’s Committee of Lao Cai, the Vietnam’s mountainous northwest province has asked the Prime Minister to approve in principle a project to develop a new airport worth more than US$254.5 million near Sapa township, one of Vietnam’s top tourist attractions.
In the proposal, the provincial authority stated that the project can be financed by the State budget and private funds under public-private partnerships through build-operate-transfer contracts.
More than US$133 million from the central State budget should be allocated to develop the airport, including runways, taxiways and aprons, as well as arterial roads to and from the airport.
Private companies will invest 30 percent, or US$77 million in a public-private-partnership model where they will operate the airport to recover investment before handling it back to the state.
Lao Cai Province will invest 15 percent, or US$39 million, for land acquisition and relocation, while the Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation (VATM) will invest the remaining 2 percent, US$5 million, for air traffic control facilities at the airport.
The airport will be located in Cam Con Commune of Bao Yen District on some 371 hectares of land, roughly 100 kilometers away from the frontier township of Sapa and will be used for both civilian and military purposes.
The early construction of the airport is deemed necessary and aligned with a number of master plans, according to the local government.
The airport is expected to meet the zoning plan criteria for airports by 2020, with a vision toward 2030, as approved by the prime minister.
In particular, the airport will meet the 4C standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization and Vietnam’s level-two standards for military airports.
The airport will have a capacity of 2.5-3 million passengers annually and will have nine aircraft-parking spaces able to accommodate mid-sized Airbus A320 and A321 planes, or similar aircraft models.
Lao Cai province is situated in the economic corridor of Kunming-Lao Cai-Hanoi-Haiphong that boasts strong trade links with southwestern China.
In 2018, Lao Cai welcomed 4.2 million visitors, up 20 percent from 2017. 720,000 of them were international tourists.
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.