|Tourists in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang board speedboats in Rach Gia City on their way to Phu Quoc Island. The province is struggling to attract foreign visitors due to poorly-developed infrastructure. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Hai
by Van Dat
KIEN GIANG (VNS)— Though having several beautiful sites, the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang has failed to attract tourists from Southeast Asian nations, especially Thailand and Cambodia, a senior official said last week.
Mai Van Huynh, deputy chairman of the Kien Giang People's Committee, attributed the failure to the lack of well-developed infrastructure and proper plans for tourism development.
Meeting with a Thai delegation seeking to enhance co-operation between Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand on the southern coastal corridor bordering the Gulf of Thailand, he said the number of foreign tourists from ASEAN member nations visiting the province was still limited.
Every year, the province, which has more than 140 big and small islands, receives over 3.5 million tourists, of them about 170,000 are foreigners. But not many of them are Thai citizens, Huynh said.
He said the number of Vietnamese tourists from the province visiting Thailand using the corridor was also limited. Every year, just seven or eight groups of Vietnamese tourists visit Cambodia and Thailand through the southern coastal corridor that runs through Ha Tien, Koh Kong and Sihanoukville to reach Bangkok.
Huynh said Kien Giang seeks opportunities to co-operate with Thailand, a country with rich experience in tourism development. He said the province hopes to be better connected with Thailand by road, air and sea via the Gulf of Thailand.
The Thai Consul General in HCM City, Panpimon Suwannapongse, said she sees the corridor as playing an important role in economic development and tourism cooperation.
She urged the province to widen the current road and call on investors to build more deep water ports.
"Without good infrastructure, tourism and economic co-operation between the three countries cannot be done well, so developing infrastructure is key," she said.
On the southern coastal corridor, Kien Giang is the gateway to 13 provinces and Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta, so tourists from Thailand and Cambodia will visit the delta if the route is expanded, she said.
She said Thai tourists would love to drink coconut juice in Ben Tre, and visit other beautiful spots like H Tin, Ph Quoc Island and Sam Mount in An Giang. A well developed route would also make it much easier for Vietnamese tourists to visit Thailand, she added.
Le Minh Hoang, director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that the number of road tours to Thailand was still restricted because construction of some parts of the corridor have not been completed.
Chutathip Chareonlarp, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand's HCM City Office, told Viet Nam News that Kien Giang in particular and the Mekong Delta in general is an interesting place for Thai visitors, and they would find it even more interesting if they can access the places by road.
While the number of Thai tourists visiting Viet Nam every year is estimated at more than 200,000, most of them visit Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Da Nang and Hue by air. Not many visit the Mekong Delta.
Kien Giang has four main tourism spots – Phu Quoc Island, Rach Gia City, Ha Tien – Kien Luong, and the U Minh Thuong Forest. The province has two airports and two seaports that can receive five-star cruise ships.
Earlier, the administrations of Kien Giang Province and Thailand's Trat and Chanthaburi provinces had announced that a sea tourism service linking Viet Nam's Kien Giang Province with Cambodia's Sihanoukville and Thailand will be launched soon.
The three provinces have agreed to conduct surveys of tourist sites, including Ha Tien, Rach Gia and Phu Quoc in Viet Nam, Cambodia's Sihanoukville and Thailand's Trat and Chanthaburi provinces. — VNS