04/04/2017 13:30:00

Sustainable tourism in the land of yellow flowers

Director of Phu Yen department of Culture, Sport and Tourism Ho Van Tien shared with reporter Duc Hanh the challenges Phu Yen has faced in preparing to host Miss ASEAN Friendship 2017 in Tuy Hoa City this summer.

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This is the first time Phu Yen hosts an international-scale pageant contest. What challenges will the province face in coping with an event of this scale?

Hosting Miss ASEAN Friendship is both an honour and a challenge for Phu Yen tourism, especially in terms of human resources and infrastructure. To overcome, we sought assistance from organisations and individuals working in Ho Chi Minh City and other places.

The most challenging issues for us are tourism and transportation infrastructure. Most of the accommodation options available in Phu Yen are 2-star hotels, hostels and homestays that are not up to international standards.

Besides that, routes to tourist sites and attractions have not been able to meet demands and expectations. Being an underdeveloped province, investment in infrastructure is beyond our capacity. Recently, we have begun making proposals for funding from the Central State or ODA, seeking FDI and mobilising resources in order to acquire the capital to address these shortages. To develop Phu Yen tourism sustainably, as well as the effort of Phu Yen’s residents and business organisations, we need help from the government and central ministries.

Through this event, we hope to raise awareness of potential waiting to be explored in Phu Yen. More than ever, we strive to overcome challenges and create the best event we can for our visitors.

As deputy of the contest organising committee, how has the province prepared to meet this rapid increase in demand?

Following the release of the renowned movie “Toi thay hoa vang tren co xanh” (Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass), shot mainly in Phu Yen, the image of the land and the people of Phu Yen has received positive acclaim all over Vietnam as well as other regional countries. As a result, visitors to Phu Yen in 2016 sharply increased.

In the event of the upcoming pageant, we expect to welcome more than 10,000 tourists to Phu Yen and have prepared a few policies and solutions to meet the demand of both domestic and international visitors.

In terms of tourism infrastructure, though Phu Yen has limitations on the number of hotels available, we have implemented a few effective supplementary provisional tactics. Besides traditional infrastructure, tourists will have the chance to experience community-based tourism in Phu Yen. This is a newly emerging form of tourism that has been very well received by tourists. The authorities have been supportive of this move, providing training for locals in professional tourism services. Visitors will have the chance to get closer to local communities and participate in local farming and fishing activities. After the success of “Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass”, local residents planted some of the same flowers that appeared in the film in many parts of the town, creating a special site for tourists.

Additionally, we have issued guidelines on appropriate conduct when dealing with tourists, aiming to make each resident of Phu Yen a tour guide. It is hoped that everyone from the leaders to the residents will welcome visitors with a smile and friendly words.

What contributed to Phu Yen’s decision to host the contest?

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One of the strengths of Phu Yen is its unique and splendid natural attractions, such as Da Dia Rock Reef and Bai Mon Mui Dien, as well as some unique intangible culture heritages.

The province can boast three national-scale-worthy intangible cultural heritages namely ‘Trong doi, cong ba, chieng nam’ art performance, ‘dan da’ lithophone and ‘ken da’ stone horn - a unique artefact. Currently, the province is applying for ken da to be recognised as a national treasure. As well as these, there is bai choi artistry, the cau ngu festival and folk song performances. These cultural and art attractions are hoped to draw tourists to Phu Yen, along with its natural beauty.

The people of Phu Yen are honest, friendly and hospitable. In terms of cuisine, rare specialities acknowledged by the Vietnam Record Association and listed among the 100 speciality foods of Vietnam include stewed sweet herbal tuna eye, grilled chicken and sun-dried beef from Song Cau town. There is also a diverse array of sea tunas, sweet snails, O Loan blood cockles, O Loan oysters, lobsters and Song Cau king crab. The food is high quality and reasonably priced. Both the food and Phu Yen’s people are attributes that can help develop tourism in Phu Yen.

Why is tourism in Phu Yen lagging behind that of neighbouring towns such as Khanh Hoa?

One reason is Phu Yen’s geographic location. It is situated far from both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi and therefore not very accessible. Plans are underway for air transport, water transport and land transport expansion. Currently there are only two flights per day connecting Phu Yen to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

However, from July Phu Yen will open the Ca Pass tunnel and in 2018 will start the construction of a tunnel through Cu Mong Pass. It is hoped that these will improve connections and form the transportation infrastructure for linking cultural heritage in the centre of Vietnam. Furthermore, Vietnam Airlines will soon open a new route connecting Phu Yen with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Currently there is only one flight daily connecting the area with the two big cities operated by Vietjet Air and Jetstar Pacific.

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What mechanisms has the province put in place to attract both domestic and international investors in tourism?

Phu Yen’s provincial committee as well as its department of culture, sport and tourism is currently focusing on devising policies for the development of Phu Yen’s tourism and investment into the industry. This is the chief mission of the whole party, particularly in the department of culture and tourism.

The province has issued many policies on land and land taxes, as well as policies on one-door- administrative reform in order to save time and to simplify administrative procedures. Our policies on taxes are favourable for investors and will be implemented as soon as possible.

We have also issued action plans across many areas. For example, as one of Phu Yen’s shortcomings is a lack of professionally trained employees in tourism, we have proposed preferential policies to encourage young people in Phu Yen to train in tourism and to stay on and work within the province.

Has Phu Yen received investment from any big corporations to date?

A significant flow of domestic and foreign investment has come to Phu Yen and a few projects have started surveys and construction such as Vingroup, Muong Thanh group and Rose Rock Group. These projects include golf courses, high-end resorts, hotels, a new urban area, luxury apartments, shops and a commercial centre.

What policies does the province have in place to ensure sustainable development?

We are committed to developing the economy and tourism in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. Hence, all project proposals submitted for Phu Yen must undergo a specific and professional evaluation process related to their environmental impact before being officially approved.

By Duc Hanh