Tourism in northwestern region: Potential versus problems

10:27 | 26/08/2019 Travel

(VEN) - The northern provinces of Vietnam feature innate disadvantages that are also their biggest advantages. With large segments of the population members of disparate ethnic groups and mountainous, isolated terrain, the region also has the greatest tourism potential in the country - for the very same reasons.

Efforts over the past decade to turn tourism into a spearhead economic sector to alleviate widespread poverty in those regions have had mixed results due to under-developed transportation, geographic obstacles and lack of trained personnel.

At their latest annual meeting in recent weeks, provincial leaders laid out an ambitious agenda for the coming year. They aim to step up tourism connectivity and promotion, as well as human resource development in service of the sector. Special attention will be paid to cooperation in tourism product development between the eight provinces.

Plans include a photo contest, developing waterway tourism connecting Hoa Binh with Son La, Dien Bien and Lai Chau through the Da River, and implementing cooperation documents signed with Laos’ northern provinces. The provinces will continue to participate in international travel fairs and promote northwestern culture in Hanoi, while organizing training courses for tourism workers.

Growth in visitors and revenues

In June 2010, leaders of eight Vietnamese northwestern provinces, including Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Phu Tho, Hoa Binh, Son La, Dien Bien, Lai Chau, and Ha Giang signed a tourism development cooperation program.

The program has focused on four main areas - policy mechanisms, product development, promotion, and human resource training. Provincial leaders meet once a year to review and evaluate the results of their cooperation activities and work out plans for the following year.

According to the steering committee of the tourism development cooperation program among eight Vietnamese northwestern provinces, localities have focused on developing special tourism products and paid attention to tourism promotion through exhibitions and communication work.

On the plus side, the number of visitors to the region and tourism revenues have increased sharply. The northwestern region has to date welcomed more than 20 million arrivals, including two million foreigners, with total tourism revenues of over VND23 trillion.

Attracting tourism investment

Many localities have attracted tourism investment. For example, in 2018, businesses poured about VND5.8 trillion into tourism projects in Lao Cai Province. Some big projects were completed and put into operation, such as the Fansipan cable car, mountain-climbing railway route, and five-star hotels in Sa Pa District.

Hoa Binh Province has also attracted growing domestic and foreign investors for cable car projects and entertainment complexes, while Son La Province has received investment capital for eco-tourism projects.

Ha Van Thang, director of the Lao Cai Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the northwestern region holds huge potential for tourism development. In recent times, the region has increasingly paid attention to investment in tourism and devised open mechanisms and policies to attract investors, contributing to tapping the full potential of the region.

However, to ensure further sustainable development, linkages between management agencies, accommodation providers, transporters, tourist destinations and restaurants must be fostered. Improving the quality of services is also mentioned as necessary.

According to experts, priority should be given to improving transport infrastructure. In addition, there should be a hotline to resolve problems arising in the process of serving customers.

Thanh Tam