Since June 27, 2016, restrictions on tourists driving into Thailand from Laos have been in place as a way to cut down on traffic accidents and waste management issues in the area. Daily inbound traffic has dwindled from the previous average of 600 to 10. This represents a 98% drop in tourists traveling to Thailand by this route.
Before the rule change, drivers, often coming from southern China, would use this border crossing as a way to enter Thailand and visit destinations like Chiang Mai province or Bangkok. Tourist are still permitted to drive into the country the only catch is they are prohibited from driving outside of the province they entered from. In other words, the traffic enters from Laos at Chiang Mai’s northern neighbor, Chiang Rai. Anyone hoping to get beyond that province is stopped in their tracks.
The tourism hub of Chiang Mai has begun to feel the decrease in tourism in its economy. Estimates put the loss of revenue at around US$28,000 a day since the rule change. Authorities there have warned that unless the ban is reconsidered, 3,000 to 5,000 people employed by the tourism industry would eventually be out of work.
Chiang Mai tourism authorities are looking into the problem created as a result of the ban and are promising a solution. A measure being brought to the table is to allow drivers that have received special permits to enter, but tourists hoping to secure these permits will need to request them at least 30 days in advance.