Travel firms eye Vietnam's remote islands

By Trung Hieu, Thanh Nien News

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Co To Island in Quang Ninh Province. Photo: Dinh Quan Co To Island in Quang Ninh Province. Photo: Dinh Quan

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Vietnamese travel companies are expanding tours to lesser-known islands around the country. 
Luong Duy Ngan, director of Newstar Tour, said his company opened tours to Co To Island in the northern province of Quang Ninh last May, and his products have since attracted around 1,000 customers over the last few months. 
He said that Co To has proven attractive because of its untouched beaches, beautiful landscape, friendly people and rather cheap food and accommodation prices. 
“I think the tourism potential of islands is very big, especially the less-inhabited, remote islands,” he said. 
“If travel companies know how to tap that potential, they will draw many customers.” 
Pham Hoang Mai Huong, deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City-based Saigontourist, said her company organized a field trip to Co To early this month to explore its potential. 
“We’re searching for new destinations. In the north, we are considering Co To and Cat Ba (an island in Hai Phong City),” she said in a meeting with the government of Co To District. 
Meanwhile, Ly Son Island in the south central province of Quang Ngai began catching the eyes of travel companies after its connection to the national power grid following the US$30.7 million installation of 26 kilometers of underground cables in late September. 
Le Hong Son, director of Vinatravel, said his company had been watching Ly Son for a long time, but was unable to open tours to the island because of frequent power outages. 
“Now that Ly Son has been connected to the national grid, we will step up tours to the island,” he said. 
Recently, some outpost islands such as Binh Ba in Khanh Hoa Province and Phu Quy in Binh Thuan Province have attracted a large number of self-organizing tourists and backpackers. 
Concerns 

More tourists are traveling to Co To Island in Quang Ninh Province. Photo: Dinh Quan
The biggest concern for travel companies when they open tours to remote islands is the quality of tourism services. 
Son, Vinatravel’s director, said Ly Son Island, though electrified, lacks food and accommodation services for tourists. 
Truong Duc Hai, general director of Hon Ngoc Vien Dong (Saigon Holiday) Travel Company, also worries about the staff who will offer tourism services on Co To Island. 
“The island’s authorities should pay attention to training their people in simple things such as turning down rooms to checking guests in and out,” he said. 
Meanwhile, the governments on the islands say they are worried that a future tourism boom will destroy their fragile ecologies. 
Nguyen Duc Thanh, the chief of Co To Island's Communist Party Unit, said the island authorities aim to receive just 100,000 tourists each year. 
“We estimate that if the island receives 150,000 tourists each year, the environment will be badly affected,” he said. 
Ngan, Newstar Tour’s director, said islands authorities should prioritize tourism projects that offer solutions to protect the environment and prohibit projects that may encroach on beaches.

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