Tourism officials have not minced their words when speaking about top destinations in central Vietnam.
Ha Van Sieu, deputy director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said nearly all coastal towns in the region, from Da Nang to Nha Trang and Phan Thiet, are almost the same, without any distinctive tourism products.
“The only way to make tourists stay longer and spend more is to give them something special," he told a conference in Phan Thiet last weekend.
Officials and industry insiders, once again, agreed that the south central region is resource rich, with 1,200 kilometers of coastlines and numerous cultural and religious sites. But they said the region failed to rack up big revenues.
Tran Du Lich, a government advisor, said tourism companies really need to be creative and find new ways to make tourists spend more money, either on shopping or entertainment.
“We are earning too little from tourists, apart from hotel expenses. How to make them spend their very last penny here before they leave is still a very tough question.”
Tran Dinh Thien, head of the think tank Central Institute of Economic Management, said the region's tourism industry is still heavily banked on natural resources.
Unless it starts developing better and more diverse services, it will not be able to sustain itself in the long run, Thien said.
Experts at the meeting also pointed to underdeveloped infrastructure as a challenge to tourism in the region.
Lich said the long and unsafe travel, due to narrow roads, has concerned many tourists.
It now takes around five hours by bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Thiet, which does not have an airport yet.
There’s an expressway from the city to Dong Nai Province in the middle, and he recommended the government invest in another from Dong Nai to Phan Thiet to cut travel time and boost tourist arrivals.