Vietnam's tourism administration agency has expressed support for installing a controversial cable car system near the world's largest cave, Son Doong, news website VnExpress reported Monday.
Nguyen Van Tuan, chief of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, was quoted as saying that the system, designed to connect Phong Nha and Son Doong caves in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the central province of Quang Binh, would help bring in more visitors.
He said adventure tourism is popular in Quang Binh but is limited to a few hundred tourists a year.
Acknowledging environmental concerns, he said though the cable car promises to bring more tourists, tours would be limited to certain places.
The preservation of natural resources is indispensable to tourism development, he said.
The tourism agency and Quang Binh authorities have agreed that Son Doong, En, and Va will be among caves with limited access, meaning tourists will only be allowed to visit them at certain times of the year, while Thien Duong, Kho, and Uot caves will be more open.
The media first reported about the plan for the cable car in October last year, saying the 10.6-kilometer system would end inside Son Doong Cave. It sparked off objections from many experts who were concerned it would harm the environment.
Quang Binh authorities later said in a statement that the media had misunderstood the plan and that the cable car would be above the tree line in the park and end 300-600 meters from Son Doong.
The tourism ministry has called on the provincial authorities and Da Nang-based real estate and resort developer Sun Group, who will install the system, to do further research before embarking on the work.
Son Doong, which is five miles long, 450 feet wide and 600 feet high, was acknowledged as the world's largest cave by the British Cave Research Association in 2009 and has since become famous.
It was first opened to tourists on a trial basis in August 2013, and in the first eight months attracted 482 international visitors, who paid US$3,000 each for a five-day tour.
With a network of at least 150 individual caves, a dense subterranean jungle and several underground rivers inside, Son Doong is frequently named one of the top destinations in the world by international travel magazines and websites.