The investment from central authorities, the close leadership of municipal government, the ongoing effort of the people and the business community in the past time have enabled the Can Tho tourism industry to reap breakthroughs and impressive growth and gradually assert its role as a spearhead economic sector and its active contributions to local socioeconomic development. The following is a close interview with Mr Tran Viet Phuong, Director of the Can Tho Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Hoang Lam reports.
Could you describe specific strengths of Can Tho tourism?
Promoting its advantages and strengths as the central city of the Mekong Delta and a transport hub of the region to other localities in the country, Can Tho has abundant, favourable potential and conditions for tourism development like characteristically intertwined river and canal system, fertile soil, orchards, cultural festivals, cottage industries, valuable cultural and historical relics. As the habitat for various ethnic groups like Kinh, Hoa and Khmre, the city has a very distinctive culture. Can Tho also has many famous suburban tourism villages such as My Khanh, Giao Duong, Vam Xang, Ba Cong, Muoi Cuong and Con Son in addition to popular tourist attractions like Ninh Kieu River Port, Cai Rang Floating Market, Phong Dien Floating Market and Bang Lang Stork Sanctuary. Moreover, the city also has a modern, synchronous transport infrastructure system and a wide range of tourism and amusement forms.
Based on its existing potential and advantages, Can Tho City has formed four tourism types of tourism: River and garden ecotourism, traditional cultural tourism, community tourism, and MICE tourism. In 2016, the tourism sector of Can Tho City witnessed robust development and significant contributions to the local economy. Tourist arrivals rose over 14 per cent on year to more than 5.3 million arrivals, including 1.7 million tourists staying in tourist accommodations, 7 per cent higher than in 2015. Tourism revenue totalled VND1,826 billion in 2016, representing a year on year growth of 5 per cent.
In the past years, the Can Tho tourism industry has signed cooperation agreements with many provinces and cities to create competitive advantages. Could you briefly introduce remarkable cooperation programmes?
Cooperation is an indispensable trend of tourism industry. Particularly, as a general economic sector with high-level cross-industry, cross-region and socialisation, cooperation will help diversify destinations and create attractive tourist products. For that reason, Can Tho tourism sector has stepped up tourism development cooperation with other localities in the region, especially major Mekong Delta provinces and cities and those with developed tourism industry like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hai Phong. Cooperation has produced initial important outcomes as partner localities like Hanoi, Kien Giang and Da Nang opened direct flights to Can Tho City.
To date, Can Tho City has signed cooperation agreements on inbound and outbound tourism development with other provinces and cities; organised surveys on tours and tourism products; and coordinated the Mekong Delta Tourism Association to study overland tours to serve tourism connectivity between the Mekong Delta of Vietnam with Cambodia and Thailand.
How has the city cared about investing in accommodation system and infrastructure to serve tourism development?
Remarkable tourism projects in Can Tho City include an urban and ecological tourism area in Con Au and the 5-star Vinpearl Can Tho Trade - Hotel Centre. Besides, the city is calling investment capital for Con Son tourist site, Phong Dien ecological tourism area, Tan Loc ecological tourism area and Bang Lang stork sanctuary tourism site. Stimulated by the rapid tourism development of the nation, central and municipal authorities have invested and completed many important projects to modernise the infrastructure system and speed up tourism development like Can Tho Bridge, Can Tho International Airport, bridges and roads to Con Khuong, embankments along the Hau River Park, Ninh Kieu Park and Pedestrian Bridge, Uncle Ho Monument artistic lighting system, Bui Huu Nghia Tombsite and Truc Lam Phuong Nam Zen Monastery.
Can Tho City had 271 hotels and motels with 6,176 rooms in total as of September 2017, including 134 hotels ranked 1-5 stars, seven motels, nine guest houses, 19 homestay facilities, and seven food and beverage - shopping outlets. In general, the hotel and restaurant system ensures facilities and services for tourists during major national and international events in the city. In addition, many tourist attractions and homestay facilities are providing a variety of services, such as catching fish in canals, fishing, folk singing, indigenous fruits and foods.
Tourism service will play an important role in turning Can Tho into a central city of the Mekong Delta by 2020. What are central tasks that the tourism sector has executed to achieve this target?
In the expected economic structure of Can Tho City in 2020, services will make up 60.33 per cent. This is a good sign for Can Tho tourism industry, but it is also a heavy responsibility it must strive to achieve.
For that reason, the Can Tho City People's Committee issued a decision to set up a tourism development centre to supplement resources to carry out tourism activities more effectively and more frequently. The tourism sector has focused on implementing many solutions in a bid to raise public awareness of tourism development; strengthening coordination in tourism development among sectors and levels; conserved and upgraded tourism facilities; and quickly effectuating the scheme on preservation and development of Cai Rang Floating Market. In addition, the sector has called for investors to invest in key tourist attractions to entice tourists; promoted cooperation with other localities in the region as well as provinces and cities with developed tourism industry in Vietnam and other nations.
According to the master plan for Can Tho City tourism development to 2020, with an eye to 2030, Can Tho City has endeavoured to develop Can Tho into a tourist centre as well as a tourist distribution centre of the Mekong Delta. What solutions will the tourism industry focus to achieve this target?
In order to effectively tap tourism resources, the city has adjusted the master plan for Can Tho tourism development to 2020, with a vision to 2030 focused on developing specific tourism types like MICE, ecological tourism, cultural tourism and homestay to woo tourists, especially internationals.
Additionally, to effectively exploit local tourism resources, the city has actively supported districts to build tourism products; develop river-based tourism combined with cultural and historical discovery, handicraft village sightseeing; exploit cultural and historical relics and festivals; turn the Song Hau Farm and the Mekong Delta Rice Research Institute into tourist attractions; and combine agricultural activities to develop ecological tourism and homestay tourism in a bid to make the city’s tourism development effective and sustainable.
To achieve the above objectives, the tourism sector of Can Tho City has been deploying many solutions, which focus on allocating social investment resources for tourism development; mobilising all sectors to engage in tourism development; advising the City People's Committee on policies on tourism development in the new context; formulating mechanisms and policies on investment support, tax exemption and reduction for tourism projects; preserving and upgrading cultural and historical monuments and traditional handicraft villages; building folk singing clubs to serve tourists; and developing unparalleled tourism products. At the same time, the city has enhanced cooperation with localities in the region and provinces and cities with developed tourism industry; accelerated tourism promotion and personnel training to improve service quality and develop Can Tho tourism towards “Safety - Friendliness- Quality”.