Chairman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Nguyễn Trùng Khánh. Photo vietnamtourism.gov.vn
With marine tourism playing a crucial role in local socio-economic development, authorities and businesses in the northern province of Quảng Ninh are working hard to lift the industry and welcome visitors back. Lương Hương talks with Chairman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) Nguyễn Trùng Khánh about the issue.
Inner Sanctum: What is your assessment of the potential of sea and island tourism in Quảng Ninh Province?
Owning a coastline of over 250km and 2,077 islands that account for two-thirds of the country's islands, Quảng Ninh Province is naturally endowed with beautiful beaches, bays and islands that are famous domestically and internationally, along with diverse landscapes, ecology, as well as historical and cultural heritages.
Hạ Long City, the major provincial tourist attraction, plays a central role and is the driving force for the development of other local tourism sites.
The number of tourists staying in the city accounts for over 75 per cent of the whole province. The highlight is Hạ Long Bay, a world natural heritage site that has been recognised by UNESCO twice for its outstanding universal aesthetic, and geological and geomorphological values. This tourist centre has many beautiful beaches such as Bãi Cháy, Tuần Châu and some beaches on Hạ Long Bay such as Ti Tốp and Soi Sim.
The next locality in Quảng Ninh with advantages to develop sea and island tourism is Vân Đồn District. In addition to the poetic and charming scenery of Bái Tử Long Bay and Bái Tử Long National Park, Vân Đồn is home to many beautiful beaches such as Quan Lạn, Minh Châu and Ngọc Vừng.
Such beaches retain their unspoiled beauty and unpolluted ecological environment. They are blessed with smooth white sandbanks, transparent blue seas, high waves, a peaceful atmosphere and fresh air, all ideal for long vacations.
In addition, the Quảng Ninh sea contains many historical heritages and landscapes that have been ranked at the national level. The local traditional festivals still preserve the unique culture of each region, re-enacting the customs and living habits of fishermen that are particularly attractive to tourists, such as the Trà Cổ Communal House Festival in Móng Cái City or Quan Lạn Festival in Vân Đồn District.
The sea and islands of Quảng Ninh have also been endowed with extremely rich seafood, with various local specialties.
Inner Sanctum: How has the COVID-19 pandemic caused difficulties for the sea and island tourism of Quảng Ninh Province?
After four waves of the pandemic, domestic tourism businesses have fallen into a state of exhaustion, no longer having the resources to maintain minimum operating conditions. There have been support policies for the tourism sector recently, and while government organisations are much concerned, it is still difficult for tourism businesses to access help.
Tourism businesses and employees are in a more difficult situation than ever. Many businesses have been forced to change their business models or cut staff. Difficulties pile up when most businesses have debts with banks that they are unable to currently pay.
Tourism workers are forced to switch to other jobs to earn a living, leading to a possible shortage of human sources when tourism recovers. Tourism businesses, including cruise ships, have suffered huge losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the general gloomy picture of Việt Nam and Quảng Ninh tourism.
Hạ Long Bay, a must-see destination in Quảng Ninh Province. Photo quangninh.gov.vn
Inner Sanctum: What measures should be taken to promote Quảng Ninh’s advantages in sea and island tourism and attract tourists to the locality, especially in the context of the new normal?
With the consistent goal of ensuring the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic, and sustainable tourism economic development, Quảng Ninh should first and foremost inoculate all tourism officials and employees on a large scale to ensure safety.
Meanwhile, the province should implement measures to ensure safety and prevent the pandemic in tourism activities, following instructions issued by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism, in addition to deploying the application "Safe Việt Nam tourism" to ensure safe travel.
Entrance tickets to tourist landmarks like Hạ Long Bay, Quảng Ninh Museum, Yên Tử scenic area, and bus tickets from Vân Đồn international airport to Hạ Long City should be free.
The province should also inspect, improve and upgrade accommodation services ranging from the standard to high-class on the islands and bays after two years of disruption due to the pandemic to ensure service quality and safety for guests upon their return.
Other measures include diversifying and creating new high-class marine tourism products and services; building national-scale island resorts; protecting and embellishing historical and cultural relics; developing traditional festivals imbued with the identity of the people; as well as offering training courses to improve the skills of tourism staff.
Inner Sanctum: What policies have the VNAT and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism issued to attract tourists, especially foreigners, to Quảng Ninh?
Under the guidance of the VNAT, under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Quảng Ninh has promptly worked out two tourism stimulus plans for receiving intra-provincial tourists and tourists outside the province in the fourth quarter of 2021.
The Provincial People's Committee also issued a decision dated November 24, 2021 on a pilot plan to welcome and serve international tourists.
The VNAT will continue to assist Quảng Ninh to restore its tourism sector by supporting the province to pilot receiving international tourists safely and efficiently following the instruction of the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism; implement tourism stimulus programmes and campaigns; diversify distinctive tourism products in the locality; and strengthen the application of information technology in tourism promotion activities.
The VNAT will also encourage Quảng Ninh to conduct surveys of tourism resources, create new tourism products, focus on completing traffic infrastructure projects, and build social and tourism facilities to have favourable conditions for effective tourism.
Inner Sanctum: How do you predict the development of the pandemic, and how will the national tourism sector respond?
Since the appearance of the new strain Omicron, countries are becoming more cautious in opening international routes. This affects the reopening of regular international routes in Việt Nam because consensus is needed between the countries involved.
However, following the direction of the Prime Minister, the appearance of the Omicron variant will not affect Việt Nam's plan to open and welcome back international tourists. The re-opening to welcome international guests will maintain strict pandemic prevention requirements and solutions under the instructions of the Ministry of Health. VNS