Monday, 22 May 2017

VIETNAM: Mountainous Homestay Tourism

When it comes to homestay tourism in Vietnam, one may think of the northwestern region. However, in the central province of Thanh Hoa, more attention has been paid to developing this service.

Don village in the mountainous district of Ba Thuoc in Thanh Hoa province has now become one of the emerging travel destinations with its homestay service for visitors who wish to explore the local life.

Besides a pure atmosphere, visitors can explore unique cultural characteristics of local ethnic people. The tourism service is rated ‘good’ by visitors. However, since it is a new type of tourism service in the locality, infrastructure serving the service remains limited.

Ba Thuoc district has recently mapped out a specific plan to develop homestay service in Don village and some other villages, considering tourism to be its spearhead sector in the coming time.

Along with investment in infrastructure, the protection of the rural landscape and the environment is regarded as key to developing homestay tourism in the locality.

A Space for Community Culture was launched at the central city’s East Sea Park yesterday, attracting the participation of 80 pavilions including souvenirs, food courts and folk games.

The city’s tourism department said the space will last through to the end of this month in order to serve booming tourism in Sơn Trà Peninsula.

As scheduled, the space will open from 9am till 10pm each day from May 19 to May 31st.

Tourists can sample traditional cuisine and purchase made-in-Đà Nẵng gifts including stone sculptures, organic cosmetics, bamboo crafts, and carved shells.

According to the department, a bartending competition will take place with the participation of competitors from Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Da Nang.

Live music performances will be on every night, while food courts will serve locals and tourists.

Mỹ Khê beach, one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, also boasts boat rides, as well as jet-ski and kayak rentals.

The Vietnam Tourism Association has proposed to continue visa exemptions for Western European tourists to boost tourism.

According to the Vietnam Tourism Association, in order to implement the government's resolution to turn tourism into Vietnam's key sector, visa exemptions should be continued for visitors from major tourist markets.

The association said they had received requests from tourism firms and local tourism associations to continue visa exemptions for tourists from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belarus and the UK for five years.

They also suggested exempting visas for visitors from India, Australia, Canada, and countries in Eastern Europe including Poland, Czech, Bulgaria and Hungary, as well as former Soviet countries.

Vu The Binh, the association's vice chairman, said it was competitive as neighbouring countries all have open visa policies.

"Expanding visa exemptions is a common trend.

Thailand exempts visa for tourists from 61 countries, Malaysia exempts visa for 155 countries and in Singapore, it's 158. Meanwhile, we have only exempted visa for 22 countries," he said.

Tourism firms said since the visa exemption programme only lasted for one year, they didn't dare spend too much on promotion.

Normally, their short-term plans last from three to five years and over five years for long-term plans. The one-year visa exemption has only attracted independent tourists as firms await a more stable policy.

Tran Thi Viet Huong from Vietravel said most European tourists plan their vacations six months to a year in advance while the programme would end this June. This will affect their decision-making about holidays next year.

Le Tuan Anh, Deputy Director of the International Co-operation Department of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism said they had suggested extended the programme to five years and raise the standard length of stay for tourist visas from 15 to 30 days during meetings with other agencies.

"Resolution 8 on developing tourism states that pilot programmes can be carried out for urgent matters that don't have their own regulations yet. This suits the tourism sector which includes many other sectors. Thanks to it that the e-visa programme was piloted quickly in February," Anh said.

The number of visitors from Europe dramatically increased after the visa exemption was introduced. In the first quarter, the number of visitors from France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK reached 240,000, an increase of 12% compared to same period last year.

The growth rates from Spain were 23%, 13% from Italy, 13% from Germany, 11% from France and 9% from the UK.

Vu The Binh, the Vietnam Tourism Association's vice chairman, emphasised that the e-visa was different programme and they still needed to expand the visa exemption programme.