Viet Nam News
By Phước Bửu
THỪA THIÊN-HUẾ — Huế needs more investment in infrastructure and improvement in local management to brighten its tourism prospects.
Experts have called for the involvement of local leaders and residents to give a push to tourism in the city.
Việt Nam Tourism Association chairman Nguyễn Hữu Thọ said Huế had the maximum potential for tourism in the country, but the former imperial capital city was yet to become a top destination for visitors.
“The city is obviously beautiful and has extraordinary culture and people. However, it is lagging behind other localities in tourism,” Thọ said.
He added that Huế was home to talented people, including female sculptor Điềm Phùng Thị and song composer Trịnh Công Sơn, but the city did not have any attractive monument or place to merit visits by the late artists’ fans.
According to him, among the 3,000 varieties of foods found in Việt Nam, some 1,700 dishes are made in Huế, but the city hardly has any decent restaurant serving authentic Vietnamese food.
“Huế has not been the top choice among visitors to taste its specialty dishes. Bún bò Huế (Huế noodle soup) that was once popular among tourists to the city is losing its original flavour. Today, Ho Chi Minh City serves better bún bò Huế than Huế,” Thọ said.
Late chef Anthony Bourdain called Bún bò Huế the world’s best soup when he tasted it at a small eatery meant for locals during his visit to Việt Nam.
At a recent workshop in the city, popular tour operators in the country, including Saigontourist and Vietravel, complained about shortcomings in the local tourism sector.
King Khải Định mausoleum. Tour operators said Huế tourism had bad reputation of price hike at the site. VNS Photo Nguyễn Văn Sum
A representative of Saigontourist in Huế said the city’s tourism earned a bad reputation due to the hike in ticket prices for visits to monuments as well as for encroachment of protected heritage land for car parking. She also said visitors were often disturbed by street vendors and service brokers.
Meanwhile, a representative of Vietravel said the city lacked interesting tour programmes to attract tourists. She said the biennial cultural event, Huế Festival, was a prominent one in the city, but the plan for each event was announced too late, which prevented tour operators from including the event in their itinerary for tourists.
Tour operators and experts agreed that Huế should have more facilities for a facelift of the local tourism infrastructure.
“Huế should have designated spaces for prominent musicians and cultural figures who were natives of the city,” Thọ said.
He wanted Huế to have a centre for sharing and connecting traditional crafts.
“Huế is a former royal capital as well as a capital of Vietnamese gastronomy. Therefore, the city authorities should organise gastronomy events every week to attract visitors,” he said, adding that a centre for food conservation would also be good.
Representatives of Saigontourist and Vietravel suggested better management of service prices as well as civilised ambiance around and inside frequently visited monuments.
Saigontourist wanted a price cut in the entry fee to monuments.
Thọ encouraged local people as well as officials in the city to be more involved in the promotion of local tourism and to make use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Đinh Mạnh Thắng, chairman of the local tourism association, said the city must develop typical projects to lure big investors for breakthroughs in the growth of tourism infrastructure.
He also wanted preferential policies to get the ethnic, craft and fishing villages involved in tourism.
The Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Nguyễn Ngọc Thiện, said the city should develop tourism projects that highlight the natural landscape, including the Hương (Perfume) River, besides developing its cultural values.
Thiện suggested the local authorities undertake deeper studies of market demands from potential regions of Europe and North America to develop these projects. — VNS