Formosa's fish kill robs Vietnam’s tourism of millions of dollars: officials

By VnExpress   October 14, 2016 | 07:15 pm GMT+7
Formosa's fish kill robs Vietnam’s tourism of millions of dollars: officials
A boy looks at a dead fish on a beach in Quang Trach district in the central coastal province of Quang Binh, April 20, 2016. The pollution scandal has scared tourists off many beach towns along central Vietnam. Photo by AFP

Arrivals and tourism revenue in areas affected by the toxic spill fell by up to 90 pct.

Pollution from Taiwanese steel firm Formosa along the central coast in April has almost destroyed tourism in the area, with arrivals and tourism revenue plummeting by up to 90 percent, officials said at a meeting on Thursday.

Beach tourism revenue in Ha Tinh Province has dropped 90 percent from last year and money from other tourism services has fallen by 40 to 50 percent, local officials said at the meeting with the tourism ministry.

Ha Tinh and nearby provinces Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue were directly affected by the toxic waste spill from Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, the Vietnam unit of Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group.

Around 70 tons of dead fish washed up dead in the provinces, scaring people away from their once beautiful beaches and delicious seafood. The scale of the disaster still remains unclear.

Officials from Quang Binh said the environmental scandal cost its tourism sector VND1.9 trillion ($85.2 million), while Quang Tri says it has lost VND250 billion ($11.2 million).

Thua Thien-Hue reported no significant drops in arrivals or revenue as it has bigger attractions, such as the imperial city and royal tombs that date back to the early 19th century.

Nguyen Van Ky, deputy director of Quang Binh’s tourism department, said at the meeting that visitor numbers to the province have dropped by more than 70 percent.

“Other tourism activities such as cave tours have been unable to save the tourism industry,” Ky said, referring to famous caves in the province including the world’s largest, Son Doong.

He said construction at 17 new hotels in the province has been suspended following the drop in visitors.

In August the Environment Ministry released a report assuring people that the water in the central coast is now safe for swimming and aquaculture. But many tourists are still discouraged, especially now that the Agriculture Ministry has set no-fishing zones over 800 square kilometers, saying these swaths of water need time to recover from the toxic spill.

Officials at the Thursday meeting asked for support such as debt relief for tourism investors who are not entitled to any compensation for the disaster, possibly the biggest to hit the country.

Formosa has transferred $500 million in compensation to the Vietnamese government, which is in the process of distributing it to those affected in the fishing industry.

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