|Tourists visit the Imperial Citadel in Hue. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Ha
by Phuoc Buu
THUA THIEN-HUE (VNS)— With its airport closing and tourism sector performing worse than expected, the former royal city of Hue has attempted to revive its fortunes by launching an extensive discount programme for tourists visiting its local historical attractions.
For three separate weeks this year, travellers to the city will be invited to enjoy the city's monuments and experience its unique culture – which extends from music and art to fashion and food.
The initiative has been organised by the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre and the first of its "Hue Golden Tourism Weeks" was launched on Saturday and will run until the 27th of this month.
Under the scheme, this week a visitor can purchase one cheap ticket allowing entrance to many monuments, when previously separate tickets would have been needed. Attractions covered by the deal include the Royal Palace and the tombs of Minh Mang and Khai Dinh. Additionally, the price of drinks and refreshments sold at some of these sites will be halved.
In another promotion, paying visitors to the palace will be offered free entrance to the Hue Museum of Artefacts and free transit to the museum via electric buses.
The museum is hoping to highlight its new collection of rare items once owned by Viet Nam's kings. The exhibition includes two giant flower vases made from pure gold, lent to the centre by avid Ha Noi collector Duong Phu Hien.
Tourists are also being given the chance to enjoy free performances of Hue's famous royal court music, a genre which has been declared an item of World Cultural Intangible Heritage, at Thai Hoa Palace and Thai Mieu Temple. Meanwhile, tickets for shows at the city's Royal Theatre are selling for half price.
"We are doing our very best to diversify the tourist experience with the aim of persuading visitors to stay in Hue for longer," said Nguyen Van Phuc, an official from the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre.
"We realise that tourists have been staying in Hue for a very short time and just visiting the monuments and then leaving. We want to show them that there is more in Hue than just the tombs and palace, and our culture is extensive and well worth seeing. This is our long-term goal," he added.
Experts have said that the majority of tourists visiting Hue and Hoi An choose to travel there from hotels in nearby Da Nang, which has few tourist sites of its own but has an abundance of bars, restaurants and high quality resorts.
Tourist hotspots like Hue are trying to develop the services they can offer to tourists in order to receive more income from this potentially lucrative sector. However, progress has been fairly slow as they search for a way to develop without inflicting lasting damage to their unique heritage.
The closure of Hue's Phu Bai airport until November for renovation has particularly limited income from tourism this year. The nearest airport is in Da Nang, which has led to Hue losing even more business to its local rival.
Nguyen Quoc Thanh, chairman of Hue Association of Tourism, said the closure of Phu Bai has been tough on accommodation and travel services which must now offer large discounts to remain competitive.
The second Golden Tourism Week will take place from September 2-8, while the third is from December 24-30.
Hundreds of artisans from more than 20 craft villages will show off their "golden hands" at the Hue Traditional Craft Festival, which starts this Saturday in the former imperial city of Hue.
The artisans – mostly Hue natives – include silversmiths, carpenters, embroiderers, potters, incense stick makers, conical hat makers, lacquer painters, bronze casters, kite makers and wooden bell makers.
They hail from Hue's traditional craft villages such as Phuoc Tich (which specialises in terracotta), Hoi An (silk), Kim Bong (carpentry), My Xuan (wood sculpture), Ke Mon (silver), Bao La (wicker), Thuan Loc and Duc Thanh (embroidery) and Phu Cam (conical hat making).
During the five-day Quintessence of Vietnamese Crafts event, the artisans will teach visitors how they create these products.
Visitors will not only learn about the history and development of the craft villages, but will also be able to join artisans to create their own craft products.
Craftspeople from other villages nationwide will also attend, such as Bat Trang (pottery), Van Phuc (silk), Quat Dong (embroidery) and Dinh Cong (silverware) in Ha Noi, Lung Tien (linen brocade) in Ha Giang and Bau Truc (terracotta) and Cham (brocade) in Ninh Thuan.
A 150-stall fair showcasing award-winning craft items will take place at Tu Tuong Park on Nguyen Dinh Chieu Road.
At France's Metamorphoses exhibition at the Museum of Hue Culture, 21 Le Loi Road, a collection of 80 unique textile and garment objects will be on display. The exhibit presents the diversity of materials and high-level weaving techniques of fashion designers from all over the world.
Sophisticated embroidery by folk artisans Le Van Kinh and Vu Gioi from Duc Thanh and Dong Cuu villages in Hue and Nguyen Huu Chinh from Van Phuc silk village in Ha Noi will be displayed at the exhibition.
Japanese artist Ueno Masao will use bamboo and rattan woven products made by artisans from Bao La village in Hue as the main material for works to be displayed at another exhibition. The show will also feature hundreds of Hue kites.
An antique exhibition will showcase the collection of cultural researcher Tran Dinh Son, which consists of hundreds of items from the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945), including wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ivory, gold and silver and ceramic objects.
A workshop on the role of traditional crafts and craft villages in tourism will be held for researchers, craft artisans, tour organisers and relevant authorities will be held. The workshop aims to find ways to use traditional crafts to boost tourism.
Fashion performances presenting creations by French designer Francoise Hoffmann, Filipino designers Patis Tesoro and Kinor Jiang and Vietnamese designers Cong Khanh and Minh Hanh will be held on Sunday at National School Square.
A procession honouring the ancestral founders of the region's traditional crafts will take place at Phan Boi Chau Park and Le Loi Road from 6pm to 8.30pm on May 1. — VNS