A coherent long-term strategy is needed to fully tap the potential of agri-tourism development, experts from the sector have declared.
According to Ngo Kieu Oanh, who runs a farm catering for tourists in Hanoi’s outlying district of Ba Vi, in order to expand this area of tourism, Vietnamese leaders must introduce clear policies. These should preserve traditional farming villages, provide financial support for skills training and publicity campaigns, and develop standards and a trademark for the sector, she argued.
Tran Thi Viet Huong, Communication and Promotion Manager at Vietravel, highlighted the need for investment in the sector and a connection between farmers, local authorities and tourist agencies.
She cited the successful example of Saigontourist, which has worked with Lam Dong province to offer tree planting tours attracting crowds of international visitors.
Vietnam is an agricultural country with more than 70 percent of its population living in rural areas. It also has a diversity of cultures, traditions and ecosystems.
Despite the potential, there are only two sites of agri-tourism in Hanoi. Besides Oanh’s farm, the other is the ancient village of Duong Lam, where tourists can try their hands at rice harvesting, fish catching and take rural photo shoots.
Farming tourism helps create jobs and improve living conditions for local residents, while raising awareness about protecting and upholding local traditional values, said Pham Hung Son, head of Duong Lam’s relic site management board.
The service has been particularly developed in the mountainous northern provinces of Son La, Lao Cai and Lai Chau, where tourists can enjoy the spectacular scenery of terraced rice fields.
They can also enjoy a taste of river life in the Mekong Delta or experience vegetable growing in central Hoi An town.
Tourism helps historic Ha Giang village prosper
Lung Cam Tren village in the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang has been positively transformed owing to Dong Van district’s 2010 decision to develop it into a ‘Cultural Village’ in line with new style rural area regulations.
The village is home to 70 households and more than 300 people, 96 percent of whom are from the Mong ethnic group.
Local people have actively engaged in community tourism by upgrading their homes into visitor accommodation, growing more ornamental plants and removing breeding sites away from housing areas. Traditional cultural shows are now regularly performed for tourists.
The village welcomed at least 100 groups of foreign travellers last year.
Mua Sia Mua, a local resident, said his family earned an extra of 3-5 million VND each month from homestay services offered during the tourism seasons.
Meanwhile, the upgrading of local infrastructure – including roads, the water supply network and irrigation systems, alongside the building of community houses – have helped improve living standards and lure more visitors.
The local authority has encouraged the residents to grow high-yield crops and breed good-quality animals, enabling the commercialisation of livestock production and improved productivity.
Intensive farming of maize, soy beans and grass used in cattle breeding are among several effective agricultural models employed by the villagers.
The locals’ incomes have been improved further by the development of extra businesses, including traditional brocade weaving and metal forging.
Dong Van district is home to the spectacular Dong Van Stone Plateau, which was recognised as a member of the Global Network of National Geoparks (GGN) in 2010.
The plateau is 80 percent limestone and contains the fossils of thousands of species of prehistoric creatures, which roamed the region 400-600 million years ago.
Ha Giang has a great potential for developing tourism, like the plateau, and is seeing to become one of the country’s key tourist centres.
Vietnam promotes tourism in Russia
Vietnam has actively promoted its tourism offerings in Russia to foster cooperation ties with the country and attract Russian travellers.
A delegation led by Deputy Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) Nguyen Quoc Hung attended the 10th International Travel Fair Intourmarket (ITM) 2015 held in Moscow on March 17 .
During ITM 2015, the VNAT introduced the promotion campaign “Vietnam-Timeless Charm”, activities of the “Connecting World Heritage” National Tourism Year 2015, and specific tourism options such as sea and island tourism; oceanic cultural tourism; meeting, incentive, convention, and exhibition (MICE) tourism; and eco-tourism.
The VNAT is also calling localities and tourist agencies to join the 2015 Kazan Tourism and Sport Exhibition taking place from April 10-11 in Kazan, Tatarstan ( Russia ) to seek partnerships.
Last year’s exhibition was attended by more than 140 travel agencies from 25 cities in Russia .
Russia is considered a key market in Vietnam ’s national strategy for tourism development through 2020.
Russia was one of the top 10 visiting nations to Vietnam in 2014 with nearly 365,000 travellers, up 22.4 percent from 2013.
Fiditour looks to 25% growth on coming holidays
Fiditour, one of the leading tour operators in HCMC, has put on more than 200 tours for the coming Reunification Day and International Labor Day holidays, with the number of its guests forecast to grow over 25% compared to the same holidays last year.
According to Fiditour, the prices of its holiday tours are stable and around 10% higher than those on normal days. Favorite outbound tours during the holidays are those to South Korea, Japan and Thailand and almost fully booked. With long-haul tours like those to Australia, the U.S. and Dubai, over 70% of the tickets have been sold.
Meanwhile, regarding domestic tours, with the Danang International Fireworks Competition 2015 to take place late next month, Danang tours are selling like hot cakes. A large number of customers have asked about seaside tours like those to Phu Quoc and Con Dao.
Package tours during the holidays last four to six days and are often chosen by tourists traveling with families and seniors, according to Fiditour.
Sales of its Free&Easy tours have surged since last year and are favored by young people traveling in groups. Dang Trung Nghia, deputy general director of Fiditour, said the company expects the number of buyers of Free&Easy tours will jump around 30% in the holidays.
Many hotels in HCMC report full occupancy
Many three-to five-star hotels in HCMC, especially in the downtown, have reported almost full occupancy in the past ten days, which renders last-minute bookings difficult.
The occupancy rates of many three- to five-star hotels have stayed high, at no less than 80% and even 90% or 100% on several days.
Normally, the average room rate in March is higher than in other months but it has not reached this high for years, according to city hotel operators.
Nguyen Anh Vu, general director of Majestic Hotel, said: “The number of bookings has stayed very high over the past two weeks. On some days we had no rooms left, and the average room rate in March has reached 87%.”
Other hotels such as Liberty Central Saigon Citypoint Hotel, Rex Hotel Saigon and Kim Do Hotel have also reported high room occupancy.
Lam Thi Anh Nguyen, media manager of Rex Hotel Saigon, said the hotel has achieved room occupancy of 90% to 100% over the past ten days.
Guests booking rooms at the hotel include businessmen, delegates to some events which are about to take place, and travelers.
Some hotel operators said fairs and exhibitions which are going to take place in the city have brought more visitors to the city, but others said it might not be the reason.
“We are not certain why there is a strong increase of guests at hotels as several fairs cannot cause such an upsurge in room bookings,” said Nguyen of Rex hotel.
Last year, the average occupancy of three-to five-star hotels in the city was 69%, rising 1.2 percentage points against the previous year, according to the city Department of Tourism.
The average room price was around US$93.8 per night, falling 1.3% year-on-year.
2030 club announces new caravan tour
The 2030 Businessmen Club under the Saigon Times Club last week announced its 10th caravan tour which will take in coastal areas to highlight the nation’s sovereignty over waters and islands.
The annual event of the club will take place between April 28 and May 2. The tour will depart from HCMC and take in Ninh Thuan, Nha Trang and Dalat.
The goal of the tour is to connect members of the club to do charity activity along the way.
The club will give 300 bicycles worth VND1.5 million (US$69.8) each and 500 gifts valued at VND500,000 each to poor school children in Bac Ai District, Ninh Thuan Province.
The list of students who will receive gifts from the club is provided by the province’s Department of Education and Training.
This year’s tour is expected to attract 150 people to join with 40 cars, and the fee for the trip is estimated at VND7 million per participant.
Those interested in the tour can register on www.2030club.vn, email to [email protected] or call 0913 254 449.
HCM City tourism fest highlights world heritage in Vietnam
The 11th Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Festival 2015, themed “Impression of World Heritage in Vietnam”, will kick off on March 26.
The four-day event, co-organised by the HCM City’s Department of Tourism and Tourism Association, aims to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the liberation of southern Vietnam and national reunification, and respond to National Tourism Year 2015.
This year’s event is expected to attract nearly 40 travel agents, hotels, universities and representatives from tourism promotion agencies from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore. Particularly, 35 companies from cities and provinces nationwide will showcase their products at 120 pavilions.
In the festival, seven localities which own world natural and culture heritage sites recognized by UNESCO (Ha Noi, Quang Ninh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Quang Binh, Thua Thien-Hue and Quang Nam) will hold diverse activities to highlight the heritage images and value, such as reproduction of heritage space, display of artworks, souvenirs, postcards, and heritage publications.
In addition, the tour operators, airlines and typical units named in the list of Ho Chi Minh City – 100 interesting things will launch promotional and preferential services for visitors.
La Quoc Khanh, deputy director of the municipal Culture, Sports and Tourism Department expressed hope that the event will make tourism promotional programs more efficient and further disseminate information on the world cultural heritage in Vietnam.