The central province of Phu Yen needs more flights as well as more entertainment services in order to host the 2011 National Tourism Year successfully, tour operators and resort owners said.
The province hopes hosting the event will help it welcome half a million visitors, significantly higher than the 320,000 this year, and make Phu Yen better known to tourists.
But tour companies and resort owners say Phu Yen authorities should address the shortage of flights and recreational activities first.
"It is very difficult to attract tourists with the limits on the air service as at present," said Huynh Thi Kim Huong, general director of Sao Viet Resort and Spa. "We need more flights with larger aircraft to be able to welcome more guests."
Most of the visitors to Phu Yen come from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, which are 560 and 1,160 kilometers away respectively. They prefer to cover this distance by air.
However, there are only five flights per week from Hanoi and seven from HCMC to Phu Yen, all serviced by small aircraft.
Meanwhile, the train service also fails to meet demand as Phu Yen has just one small station on the north-south railway route.
Transportation is a very important factor in boosting tourism in the province and the central region, especially when international tourists are shortening their holidays, said Nguyen The Vinh, deputy director of Saigontourist.
He said while foreign tourists had chosen 15- or 16-day tours in previous years, they now prefer to spend about 10 to 12 days visiting the south-central region.
As for accommodation, Phu Yen boasts around 90 hotels and resorts with a total of more than 2,000 rooms, enough to meet demand, said Tran Quang Nhat, deputy director of the province's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
However, there is a lack of recreational activities, he said.
Other neighboring provinces like Binh Dinh, Quang Ngai and Ninh Thuan have the same problem.
"Investors focus mainly on tourism infrastructure, and not enough on entertainment services," said Do Tan Cuong, deputy director of Quang Nam Province's Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
Phu Yen has been chosen to host the national tourism year, with more than 30 cultural, sport and tourism events to be held there and in neighboring provinces and cities in the south-central coastal region, from Da Nang City to Binh Thuan Province.
Some VND24 billion (US$1.23 million) has been set aside to organize events in Phu Yen alone, including over VND10 billion from sponsors.
The year's grand opening will take place on April 1 in Phu Yen's Tuy Hoa Town, although many festivities will be held earlier.
Boasting the theme "Phu Yen 2011: Exotic Beach and Island," the year-long program will include many attractive events in the host province, including an international mountaineering tournament on Mount Da Bia, the Vietnam-South Korea cultural exchange, the ASEAN traditional music festival and the 17th Vietnam Film Festival.
Some other activities will take place in neighboring localities such as the international fireworks competition in Da Nang City, the sea festival in Nha Trang Town and the international surfing contest in Binh Thuan Province.
Tran Quang Nhat of the Phu Yen Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the organizing committee would release brochures for the program soon as well as introduce incentives for international guests.
"We will ask travel firms to help in making attractive packages to encourage tourists to stay in the region as long as possible," he said.
Phu Yen boasts many tourist attractions such as the sandstone-colored Nhan Tower, built by the Cham circa the 12th century; Vung Ro Bay, one of the most famous scenic spots in the central coastal region; and Da Dia Cliffs, the 50- meter-high rock wall that extends for two kilometers through mountains that reach down to an emerald sea.
National Tourism Year was initiated in 2003 by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.
Each year a province or city is spotlighted by the program, which was launched to promote the tourism potential of Vietnam to international visitors. Previous hosts include Quang Ninh, Quang Nam, Can Tho and Hanoi.