Vietnam's prime minister has ratified Lao Cai Province's request to hire a foreign tourism consultant as it seeks to develop and expand the northern mountain town of Sa Pa.
Lao Cai will invest in the project with local funds while seeking to draw additional funds from local and international organizations, donors and private companies.
The town will expand into areas to its north and west, while maintaining cultural and historical heritages and the surrounding environment, according to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's instruction.
In August, Prime Minister Dung approved a significant investment plan for Sa Pa.
The new "Sa Pa Tourism Area" will divide the high-altitude town and the surrounding area into nine sections.
At present, the a total area of 363 hectares (897 acres) has a population of roughly 13,000 people.
The planned sections will include a new urban area, a resort area, the Ham Rong Mountains, an agritourism area, an ecotourism area, O Quy Ho Urban Area, an agricultural area, forests and Hoang Lien National Park.
The northwest town attracted 800,000 tourists in the first half of this year, a 25 percent increase over last year. More than 1.26 million tourists visited Sa Pa last year generating more than VND2.5 trillion (US$118 million) in revenue.