Vietnam needs more than larger festivals to improve tourism; it must scrap single-entry visa fees, control price spikes, and promote internationally to keep up with its neighbors’ booming travel industries.
A series of festivals kicked off the tourism season over the past week as the industry launched a fight back following news that the number of international vistors to Vietnam took a dip during the first four months of the year.
The bid to win back trade and showcase the very best of the nation began with the 2013 Hue Traditional Craft Festival which took place from April 27 to May 1.
During the five-day festival, over 1,000 youngsters from across the city participated in a drawing competition under the theme “Hue through the eyes of its children.”
Elsewhere, a kite exhibition put the wind up spectators at Hue’s cultural museum campus, while the Goddess Ponagar Festival in Nha Trang proved a huge hit on Tuesday, attracting tens of thousands of pilgrims. The latter, an annual event, is held to commemorate the Holy Mother of the Cham community in the central region, who according to Cham legend, taught locals to cultivate land and fashion handicrafts.
Concluding today, the Ponagar Festival combines spiritual rituals with cultural activities, including a requiem and flower floating to pray for peace, happiness and prosperity, together with dancing, singing and the acting out of old stories.
To mark the occasion, Khanh Hoa Province was due to announce a decision made by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to recognise the festival as intangible national heritage.
The 1,200-year-old Ponagar tower, built using unique Cham construction techniques, was already recognised as a national historical site in 1979.
The explosion of cultural festivities is hoped to help reverse the latest data from the General Statistics Office, which revealed the number of international visitors to Vietnam fell 2.4 per cent in April to 610,000.
Overall the country had seen around 2.4 million foreign arrivals in the first four months of 2013, which represented a decrease of 5.3 per cent compared to last year.
According to experts, the fall could be attributed to global economic conditions and the decision to increase single-entry visa fees from US$25 to $45 at the beginning of January.
The experts added that local travel companies and firms were not working in tandem, which pushed up accommodation prices and other services, especially during holidays.
According to an April 16 report from the national steering committee on tourism, high service fees and unscrupulous pricing, especially by taxi drivers and vendors, also contributed to the decrease in visitors.
The committee called for a visa-free policy for major markets such as Japan, South Korea, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, as well as visa-free stays for tourists of up to 30 days instead of the current 15.
It also called for measures to boost competitiveness, increase the Government budget for tourism promotions and encourage private companies to play a more prominent role in attracting visitors.
(c)2013 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany). Distributed by MCT Information Services.
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Photo credit: Lantern-lit streets in the Old Quarter of the Vietnamese city Hoi An. Jean-Marie Hullot / Flickr