Poor infrastructure hinders Mekong Delta tourism development: experts

By Bich Phuong    September 11, 2023 | 10:00 pm PT
Poor infrastructure hinders Mekong Delta tourism development: experts
Tourists take a boat tour of Tra Su Cajuput Forest in Tinh Bien District in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang. Photo by Phan Loc
Poor transport connectivity and a lack of high-end amusement options mean the Mekong Delta struggles to attract visitors.

Industry insiders said the delta possesses everything needed to become the country's leading tourism hub, most notably eco-tourism.

But it is anything but.

Nguyen Cong Hoan, general director of Hanoi-based Flamingo Redtours, said the delta still faces many difficulties in developing tourism.

The main reason is poor transport infrastructure with traffic congestion becoming a nightmare for visitors from HCMC during holidays, he said at a tourism fair last week.

HCMC-Trung Luong, the only expressway between the two places, has become increasingly overloaded, especially during holidays such as Lunar New Year when people travel en masse to their hometowns.

The distance between provinces in the delta is often only a few dozen kilometers, but the congestion could mean travel could take hours, annoying tourists, he added.

Besides, the delta also lacks high-end entertainment complexes and unique tour products, making it unattractive to foreigners.

Vu The Binh, chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said many localities in the delta have not invested in tourism products but insist that the region has great potential.

The delta, which spans over 40,000 square kilometers and has a population of 17.4 million, is only well known for its ancient pagodas and floating markets.

But for years now fewer and fewer vendors have been coming to the floating markets, posing a threat to their survival.

Binh said Ha Giang, Lai Chau and Lao Cai in the northern highlands have in recent years made great efforts to spur tourism investing in high-end amusement complexes.

For long tourism in the delta has been seasonal, with tours centered on the flooding season between October and December and visits to the Tra Su cajuput forest and floating markers.

The place also lacks infrastructure to receive large groups of tourists and instead focuses on exploiting small groups of 15-20 people, taking MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) tourism off the table.

Hoan said it is necessary to attract large investments to develop major tourism complexes as Nha Trang, Da Nang and Sa Pa have done.

"Authorities should develop waterway tourism and riverine resorts because this is a characteristic feature of the Mekong Delta."

It is possible to combine tours from Chau Doc in An Giang Province and Ha Tien in Kien Giang Province to southern Cambodia and develop tourism products along the Mekong River, he added.

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