Da Nang officials certainly know how to cause some waves.
At a recent meeting on Friday, they decided to talk about a topic that most politicians in this world would never dare to touch: bikinis.
Ngo Quang Vinh, head of the city’s department of tourism, told the meeting that beachgoers in the city usually put on casual sleepwear and loungewear that may taint the images of the beautiful city.
“Tourists, especially foreign ones, are really grossed out when seeing swimmers in casual wear. The clothes are just uncomfortable and ugly when they get wet,” Vinh said, calling for local people to stop wearing them.
In the meeting, Vinh proposed a plan to make some beaches exclusive to those who agree to wear swimsuits. These beaches will have better services to lure more beachgoers, he said.
It sounds like a good plan, considering that there is actually a lack of facilities where swimmers can shower and change their clothes.
But the problem is many Vietnamese don't want to wear a bikini mostly because of their standards of modesty, which make them feel uncomfortable when they have to show more skin and body parts, or because of their insecurity about their body.
So how can the city encourage beachgoers to switch to swimwear?
Nguyen Duc Vu, the deputy head of the Da Nang beaches’ managing board, said that he has organized a flashmob, mobilizing hundreds of young people in bikinis, in an effort to encourage locals to wear similar swimsuits to the beach.
The performance was “impressive,” said Vu, without mentioning whether it has changed anybody's mind about beach fashion.
It's unlikely that the flashmob has achieved anything.
People don't feel like showing their bodies just because they have seen others, who are young and fit, doing so.
If Da Nang officials really want to see more beachgoers in swimwear, there are two better plans.
They can start making swimsuits cheaper and having them sold widely along the beaches. Give beachgoers more options to choose from, especially bodysuits that can help people overcome their shyness.
Or they can stop thinking about beauty and start promoting this as a safety issue.
Alan Row, an Australian tourist, said that he does not mind what people wear to the beach, but they should not put themselves in unnecessary risks.
“I once helped a woman whose swimming clothes, a pair of knee-length pants and an oversized blouse, put her in a dangerous situation,” said Alan to Thanh Nien News in a recent interview.
“She had trouble keeping the pants on while her blouse was blown up, covering her face in strong waves and winds.”
The government of Da Nang should build their swimsuit campaign on stories like this.
Because with much more important things that deserve their attention, officials should not care too much about fashion just for fashion's sake.