Laos: A Gem in the Heart of Southeast Asia

This post is part of a series detailing market specifics of ASEAN nations. Click here to see the rest of the series.

Lying amidst the lush landscapes of Southeast Asia, Laos has historically been overshadowed by its more industrially advanced neighbours.

Yet, in recent years, Laos has started showcasing its potential, backed by a commitment to openness and foreign investments.

Vital Statistics

  • Population: Approx. 7.3 million
  • GDP: Approx. $18 billion USD (as of 2021)
  • GDP Growth Rate: 4.5% (Projected for 2023)
  • Major Cities & Population:
    • Vientiane (820,000)
    • Pakse (120,000)
    • Savannakhet (120,000)
  • Median Age: 23.9 years
  • Major Industries: Hydropower, Mining, Agriculture, Tourism
  • Primary Language: Lao
  • Currency: Lao Kip (LAK)

Economic Overview

While traditionally relying on agriculture, Laos is transforming its economic blueprint. The development of hydropower projects and mining industries, particularly copper and gold, has reshaped its export dynamics.

Tourism, especially eco-tourism, is also emerging as a key growth sector.

Infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges, and connectivity projects backed by the Belt and Road Initiative, have further bolstered the nation’s aspirations.

New Zealand businesses can harness the potential of this evolving economy, tapping into sectors that are just beginning to burgeon.

Business Culture and Etiquette

Navigating business in Laos demands an appreciation of its cultural subtleties. Lao is the official language, but English is progressively recognized in business circles, predominantly in metropolitan zones.

Laotians value long-term relationships, and investing time to foster these bonds is crucial. Honouring traditions and showing respect during significant festivals, like the Pi Mai (Lao New Year), can greatly enhance business rapport.


  • Hydropower Development: Laos’s commitment to becoming the “Battery of Southeast Asia” offers numerous investment opportunities.
  • Tourism Boost: With its pristine landscapes and rich history, the country is poised for a tourism surge.
  • Infrastructure Projects: Enhanced regional connectivity and domestic infrastructure development open doors for diverse investments.

Laos is positioning itself as a major hydropower producer, with several projects underway and more planned, beckoning investors to partake in this energy transition.

With untouched terrains, ancient temples, and a rich cultural tapestry, Laos is promoting itself as an enticing travel destination, signalling opportunities in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Furthermore, the focus on enhancing domestic infrastructure and improving regional connectivity, backed by major initiatives like the Belt and Road, presents myriad opportunities for businesses specializing in construction, logistics, and allied sectors.


  • Regulatory Environment: Laos’s legal landscape is still maturing, requiring businesses to remain updated.
  • Landlocked Geography: Being landlocked can pose logistical challenges and increased transport costs.
  • Language and Cultural Nuances: Bridging cultural gaps and effective communication remain vital.

While Laos is making efforts to refine its regulatory environment, the legal landscape remains intricate. It’s essential for businesses to be informed and adaptable.

The landlocked nature of Laos might present logistical challenges, making it imperative for companies to strategize their supply chain efficiently.

Moreover, understanding local customs, traditions, and the Lao language can substantially bolster successful business endeavours and streamline operations.

Future Outlook:

  • Regional Connectivity: Laos’s position in ASEAN and its involvement in regional connectivity projects amplify its strategic importance.
  • Natural Resources: Vast untapped mineral resources await exploration and investment.
  • Young Population: A youthful population with increasing urbanization spells a shifting consumer market.

Laos’s growing regional connectivity, especially its participation in ASEAN, places it in a strategic position for increased trade and collaboration.

In addition, the country’s abundance of natural resources, especially minerals, is yet to be fully harnessed, promising a wealth of opportunities for exploration and investment.

Complementing this is Laos’s demographic dividend. With a young and increasingly urbanized populace, there’s potential for businesses to cater to a changing consumer landscape.

In conclusion, Laos, with its untapped resources and strategic positioning in Southeast Asia, offers a multitude of prospects and some unique challenges. Its budding sectors, regional integrations, and evolving demographics invite exploration and engagement.

If Laos’s promising trajectory has piqued your interest and you’re pondering market expansion, reach out to Aseanz today, and let’s embark on this venture together.