Spain has helped Vietnam develop its tourism in a sustainable manner and in line with set orientations, according to participants at a ceremony in Hanoi on May 21.
by Hoang Ha
Hotels and restaurants are built on top of Ba Na Mountain to serve tourists in central Da Nang City. The city is a popular tourist destination because of the Ba Na-Nui Chua Nature Reserve. — VNA/VNS Photo Trong Duc
"The country's sea and island tourism products are uninspiring and poor, mostly due to the kinds of investment projects," said Ha Van Sieu, director of the Institute for Tourism Development Research under the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism.
"We have exploited only some of the advantages of the country, including beautiful and warm beaches, and islands near the shore," Sieu said, adding that forested areas and sea culture had been ignored.
He said investors were only interested in projects that could recover capital quickly, such as resorts, and were reluctant to invest in long-term projects related to cultural activities or ecological projects near coastal areas.
The country has not attracted many upscale tourists, particularly on sea, because of the lack of tourism ports and products or tours offered by companies.
In recent years, more tourists from Russia are spending more time in the provinces of Khanh Hoa and Binh Thuan.
"These tourists shifted destinations from the sea of Indonesia and Thailand to Viet Nam for new experiences, not because of any advertising campaign that we have launched," Sieu said. "Most tourism promotions have not focused on seas and islands."
Hoang Van Quy, marketing director of VNTourist, said Viet Nam companies had not advertised their services, prices or the country's attractions and culture on international TV channels or even on the internet.
However, Sieu said the tourism sector was heading toward responsible tourism in the use of its resources.
But Tran The Dung, deputy director of The He Tre Travel Company, said that tourism investments in the country had not used resources well, with investors interested in only short-term profits.
"Seas and islands are usually connected closely to forests, and a lot of beautiful forests near the sea have not been used for tourism," he said.
Five years ago, tourists did not stay for long in the central city of Da Nang, but it is now a a favourite destination because of its Ba Na – Nui Chua Nature Reserve and Son Tra Peninsula as well as its coastal location near the sea.
Le Ngoc Tu, owner of Ho Tram Beach Resort and Spa, said the country needed more "public spaces" for sea tourism.
"Many localities exploited sea tourism by dividing the beach into plots to build resorts," Tu said.
As a result, nearby forested areas remain unused as tourists stay away from hotels in these areas because they do not have access to the sea.
Environmental sanitation should be a top priority, Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong, deputy director of Ninh Thuan-based Dong Thuan Tourism Company, said.
"International visitors have praised Viet Nam for many beautiful beaches, but they also have complained about unclean ones."
Thu Hien, a representative of Hoan My Travel Company, said most of her American customers required a destination that was clean and environmentally friendly.
Tran Dat Duy, deputy chairman of the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta Tourism Association, said the tourism master plan was the responsibility of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism, the organisation that has a national development campaign.
"It is impossible to welcome tourists at cargo ports when the country wants to develop sea tourism," he said.
Phu Quoc Island is the country's largest sea and island tourism area, but it is polluted in several places due to flood mitigation projects.
"This is the conflict that occurs when a locality wants to develop both tourism and agriculture," Duy said. "The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta wants to shift Phu Quoc Airport into the entrepot of Southeast Asia."
Truong Kinh, director of the Nha Trang Bay Marine Protected Area, said the country has six marine protected areas: Nha Trang Bay, Cu Lao Cham (Cham Island), Phu Quoc, Con Co, Nui Chua and Cu Lao Cau (Cau Island).
The tourism sector has projects in these areas but few are concerned about environmental preservation.
Kinh said that Nha Trang Bay's master plan on tourism and preservation was unclear, which has led to obstacles in preservation.
Tourist boats are still discharging waste directly into the sea.
Marine-protected areas were all suffering from tourism overdevelopment, he added.
"This is occuring because local authorities do not closely supervise tourism investment projects," he said.
Hon Mun, the core of the Nha Trang Bay Marine Protected Area, has served a huge number of tourists for three years, about 1,500 visitors a day.
The management board of Hon Mun has asked Khanh Hoa Province to develop measures to lessen pressure on the island, but no action has been taken.
"The licensing for diving and snorkeling is not reasonable," Kinh said.
When Nha Trang Bay began preservation efforts in 2001, there were five diving clubs. Now, there are 12 clubs on Hon Mun Island. — VNS