Lý Sơn Island to turn tourism into 'spearhead economy'

July 25, 2022 - 09:41
Vietnam News Agency talks to Đặng Tấn Thành, deputy chairman of Lý Sơn District People’s Committee, on the locality’s resolve to promote tourism as one of its spearhead economic activities.
Lý Sơn Island off the coast of central province Quảng Ngãi. — Photo courtesy of photographer Nguyễn Á

Vietnam News Agency talks to Đặng Tấn Thành, deputy chairman of Lý Sơn District People’s Committee, on the locality’s resolve to promote tourism as one of its spearhead economic activities.

What are the particular characteristics of economic development on Lý Sơn Island and the district’s orientations in the future?

Lý Sơn is the frontline island of the country, with an important position in terms of national defence and security.

In recent years, along with promoting the island’s advantages and potential for economic development, Lý Sơn authorities has given priority – resources wise – to carry out key infrastructure projects to better serve people’s livelihood, and boost the islands' socio-economic development.

The economic structure of the island district is shifting towards sustainable development – increasing the proportion of trade and service industry, in which, tourism has enjoyed a breakthrough development, becoming a key economic sector.

The district aims to speed up the economic structure shift, targeting 60 per cent of the economy fuelled by tourism and service development; 30-35 per cent by agriculture, and the remaining being industrial activities and handicrafts.

In the immediate future, we will focus on perfecting the planning of Lý Sơn Island district, and based on this plan, we will strive to attract investment, and focus resources on the rapid development of the island district in the next five years.

With strengths in landscape and richness of history, what are the district plans to promote tourism in Lý Sơn?

The island is the birthplace of Hoàng Sa heroic soldiers carrying out the royal mission to preserve the sacred sea of the country. The island also boasts spectacular scenic landscapes and traditional festivals. These are all major strengths of the island district that we could utilise to step up the island’s economic development.

Accordingly, the district focuses on preserving and promoting the values of relics in the island associated with the long-standing tradition of exploiting sea and islands of the local people, preserving and promoting spiritual tourism products and historical sites and scenic areas that have been recognised at the national level; strengthen environmental protection; and build waste treatment plants to handle the waste coming from industrial, agricultural and construction activities.

In recent years, Lý Sơn’s commercial and service activities have enjoyed significant levels of development thanks to investment in infrastructure – such as the construction of a new central market; as well as the growth of homestay services, catering services, accommodation, restaurants, rich and diverse means of transport at reasonable and affordable prices.

The whole district currently has four domestic travel businesses, and 32 individuals have received on-site tour guide practice cards; and accommodation establishments, including 17 hotels, 53 motels, 60 homestays, gradually meeting the demands of visitors.

Tourism promotion can be seen in the hosting of traditional festivals, tourism fairs, and cultural events on Lý Sơn Island such as the National Marathon Championship and the national paragliding club championship.

The number of visitors to Lý Sơn has been on a stable upward trajectory. While in 2020-21, due to COVID-19, the number dropped heavily, but in the first six months of 2022, tourism has started to recover – the number has gone up remarkably since March.

We are aiming to welcome a total of 160,000 visitors to Lý Sơn Island within the year.

You said tourism will become a key economic sector of Lý Sơn. So what about the agricultural economy, especially fishing, aquaculture and cultivation of onions and garlic – all traditional occupations of the island’s people?

Previously, agriculture was the spearhead economy of the district, accounting for about 60 per cent of the island’s economy, but in the term 2021-25, agriculture might be reduced, but the added value is going up.

In particular, fishing and aquaculture are still extremely important aspects of economic life, associated with the protection of the country’s sacred sea and island sovereignty. The district maintains information campaigns, encouraging locals to persevere with fishing activities – not just for economic purposes, but also to uphold sovereignty.

Currently, Lý Sơn has about 51 households involved in cage aquaculture – the scale is quite small at the moment, but the direction is that they raise high-value aquacultural products with environmental protection in mind.

Regarding agriculture, especially onions and garlic – the main crops in Lý Sơn, we advocate farmers to shift focus from mere output to value instead.

Currently, many enterprises in the island district have invested in planting and processing onion and garlic from Lý Sơn, to improve these products’ value. We also support and facilitate the building of the links between businesses and people to deploy new organic farming models, to improve value and productivity, and ensure income for farmers, and more importantly, preserve and protect the island’s environment.

From an island district with limited infrastructure, to becoming the most beautiful island district in the country as per its development strategy, Lý Sơn will need huge amount of investment. How does Lý Sơn plan to attract capital?

To realise the plan to promote the advantages of the locality and advance the island’s tourism development, in which sea and island tourism is the mainstay, making Lý Sơn the nucleus of Quảng Ngãi Province as per the province and the locality’s resolutions, Lý Sơn desperately needs investment, especially in building infrastructure and exploiting the economic potential of the island.

Currently, the province is calling for strategic and potential investors such as Vin Group and Sun Group to conduct surveying activities to invest in Lý Sơn.

In addition, bank credits will also play an important role. For example, being the first bank to open operations on the island, the credit from the Việt Nam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (AgriBank) was essential in the development of aquaculture, fishing and agricultural production here.

After COVID-19 outbreaks, the credit also helped enterprises and people here on the island to restore production, innovate accommodation and restaurant facilities, and purchase transportation vehicles to welcome tourists to the island.

We hope the bank will continue to provide preferential loans to serve the development needs of the island.

Along with that, we also hope that the Government, ministries, and Quảng Ngãi Province will continue to invest in and accelerate the completion of infrastructure in the island district, and at the same time have special policies and mechanisms for the implementation of socio-economic development goals and plans. — VNS