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Hue renews efforts to boost tourism

While Hue is offering discount tour packages in an attempt to lure visitors during the low season, more should be invested in the programme to ensure its success, Phuoc Buu reports.

Package deals: The promotion programme aims to lure tourists by offering three-day tour packages to several local destinations.
Package deals: The promotion programme aims to lure tourists by offering three-day tour packages to several local destinations.

While Thua Thien-Hue boasts two UNESCO world cultural heritage sites as well as many other advantages, the province still fails to draw as many tourists as its neighbours. A recently announced promotion programme aims to change this, but many are skeptical that it will be effective.

Annual revenue from tourism in Hue has been consistently lower than in neighbouring Da Nang and Quang Nam, although the former imperial capital has far more tourist attractions.

Last year, Hue received 2.5 million visitors, resulting in revenue of only VND2.4 trillion (US$1.1 million). In contrast, Da Nang’s 3.1 million visitors brought in revenue of VND7.8 trillion ($3.7 million) and Quang Nam welcomed 3.4 million visitors paying VND4.2 trillion ($2 million).

The promotion programme aims to lure tourists by offering three-day tour packages to several local destinations for VND1,999,000 ($95). By launching the programme in September – the low season for English-speaking tourists and the last month of the peak season for locals – the tourism industry hoped to lure more visitors. The goal was to bring in three million visitors this year and continue the programme until 2016, said Phan Tien Dung, director of the local Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Destinations and discounts

The Hue Monuments Conservation Centre, Bach Ma National Park and Alba Thanh Tan Hot Springs Spa and Resort co-operated to offer three packages with hefty discounts.

The first package brings visitors to the former Imperial Palace, king’s tombs, pagodas and temples. From September 2-30, groups of 10 or more visitors get 20 per cent discounts on entrance tickets to heritage sites in the former royal capital city. Visitors will be allowed to use tickets bought at the Imperial Palace, Khai Dinh or Minh Mang mausoleum to enter other sites; ticket prices for concerts of nha nhac (Hue royal court music), the world intangible cultural heritage recognised by UNESCO in 2003, performed in the Duyet Thi Duong royal theatre inside the palace, will also be cut in half. The package also gives visitors the chance to visit Sinh and Thanh Tien traditional craft villages producing paper paintings and paper flowers, which were historically placed on the family altar in dedication to the ancestors.

New goal: Hue aims to bring in three million visitors this year. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Duc

The second package highlights Alba Thanh Tan Hot Springs Spa and Resort, an attempt to lure visitors who are not really interested in for heritage sites. The site is the first in Viet Nam to offer Highwire, a challenge game set six metres in the air, as well as a long zipline and hot springs discovered by French colonists.

The third package brings tourists to Bach Ma National Park, a lush jungle that boasts some of the richest biodiversity in the country. In 1925, the French built a health resort here dotted with nearly 140 villas made from cement to protect them from the vagaries of nature. Many of them were restored in 1986 and can now serve hundreds of guests. During the day, tourists can trek to scenic waterfalls and forests; at night, they can enjoy local food and campfires on the mountain top.

Concerns over effectiveness

However, many doubt that the promotion programme will entice visitors, as it offers nothing new to Vietnamese tourists, who have been familiar with these destinations for decades.

“Tour products in Hue have become too familiar to visitors who expect something new and attractive. Price reduction is not the way to lure visitors,” said Vinh Bao Huy, who works for a tour agency in Hue.

The Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which initiated the programme, has been vague about intentions. “We want to have a couple months piloting the model so managers of the destinations around Hue can make a common plan to promote local tourism,” said Le Ngoc Sanh, head of the department’s tourism division. However, he could not give a definite time for the end of the pilot phase or say what the destination managers would do for the next phase in the three-year programme.

Artisan Than Van Huy said he was reluctant to join the programme, as the department had not offered any incentives for him, even though he had spent money for food and tea to welcome the visitors.

Another official in Alba Thanh Tan said that while the department suggested that the resort offer discounts, they were not given any compensation to do so.