|Lang Co beach in the central province of Thua Thien Hue. About 1,200-km stretch of beach along the central coast and southeastern areas, which border Laos and Cambodia, attract millions of tourists each year. — Photo cacbaibiendep.com
HCM CITY (VNS) — Viet Nam's central-coastal, southeastern and Central Highlands regions have great tourism potential but weak linkages between these areas and neighbouring countries have led to ineffective development, according to experts who spoke at a conference in HCM City last Saturday.
Forests and lakes in the Central Highlands as well as a 1,200-km stretch of beach along the central coast and southeastern areas, which border Laos and Cambodia, attract millions of tourists each year.
Dr Tran Du Lich, head of the consultancy group for the Central Coastal Region Development and Cooperation, said that Viet Nam's tourism development strategy to 2020 focuses primarily on these three regions.
Speaking at the conference on tourism linkages between the three regions and southern Laos and northeastern Cambodia, Lich said that, compared to other countries in ASEAN, the regions had failed to attract a large number of tourists, especially foreigners.
"More co-operation between these regions is needed for appropriate resource exploitation and more active innovation in product and tourism structuring, in order to highlight the advantages of each area," Lich said.
Lich said that weak transport infrastructure within the region had been a hindrance to tourism development.
Although the Long Thanh-Dau Giay Highway from HCM City to the central-coastal province of Binh Thuan has opened, it still takes 4.5 hours to travel from Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCM City to the province.
"It takes too long and slows down tourism development. Inter-provincial and inter-regional highway systems do not meet rapid tourism demand," he added.
A representative of the People's Committee from the southeastern province of Binh Phuoc said that the highway that links the province to central-coastal provinces should be upgraded.
In addition, five highways that connect Lam Dong Province in the Central Highlands to the central-coastal and southeastern regions are not in good shape, according to Phan Van Da, deputy head of Lam Dong's People's Committee. Most of these roads were built over the last 40 years.
Chaleune Warinthrasak, Laos Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, said that Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam should discuss tourism development in their border provinces and give priority to the road system.
Assoc. Professor Pham Trung Luong of the Tourism Development Research Institute said that transport systems connecting Viet Nam's south central coast, southeast region, and the Central Highlands to southern Laos and northeast Cambodia should be upgraded.
He also said that linkages should improve between Da Nang and Cam Ranh airports in the south central region, Tan Son Nhat airport in HCM City, and Lien Khuong and Ban Me Thuot airports in the Central Highlands. These are airports that are near southern Laos and northeast Cambodia.
Luong said that favourable conditions should be created for tourists travelling between regions, especially across international border gates connecting Viet Nam's Central Highlands with southern Laos and northeast Cambodia.
Measures to protect the environment and bio-diversity of ecosystems in the region should also be strengthened, he added.
Assoc. Prof Tran Dinh Thien of the Viet Nam Institute of Economics said that tourism structure should shift toward older, middle- and high-income adults.
The number of female tourists has also increased, narrowing the gap with their male counterparts.
Information search tools have become more popular, including social media. Weaknesses in tourism competitiveness are not easy to conceal, he said.
For instance, last year, the tourism website of Singapore had 800 million hit while Ha Noi and HCM City had 21 million and 10 million, respectively.
The conference was held by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in co-operation with the co-ordination board of the Central Coastal Region and Binh Thuan Province People's Committee.
It attracted more than 500 experts and representatives of tourism departments and associations, people's committees and enterprises from Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia as well as representatives from 20 embassies.
On the same day, another conference on promoting investment in Binh Thuan Province was held. The previous day, an exhibition on Viet Nam-Laos- Cambodia international tourism was organised. — VNS