The central province of QuangNam is setting a new precedent this year with the introduction of two community-based tours, director of the provincial Tourism Department Dinh Hai says.
A one-day tour to BhoHongVillage, a Cotu ethnic minority area, would officially become available in mid-February, the director said. “Everyone at the communal site is getting ready, including the professionally trained tourist workers. Infrastructure facilities, accommodation and newly-built water and electrical works have also been made ready.”
Located in Dong Giang District, 80km from Hoi An and 70km from Da NangCity, the village is home to 600 Cotu people. Half of the households there earn a living through brocade and bamboo weaving.
Visitors to the village will not only be able to purchase these crafts through the new tours, but can even learn how to make them. On the way in, tourists will view green tea fields lining the road to the village, and they will be able to pick their own tea alongside Quyet Thang Tea Farm’s workers, according to the Quang Nam Tourism Department’s website.
Later, nha moong (traditional houses) and nha guoi (communal houses) provide stopover points before tourists take to the rivers and go rafting with the girls of Cotu, picking up bits of the Cotu language from local villagers.
“Visitors, especially foreign tourists, can delight in sampling traditional Cotu dishes while hearing folk songs or dancing together with villagers,” Hai added.
Tourists partaking of the two-day programme will have the added bonus of staying overnight in nha moong, eating and sleeping near villagers. They will then visit a 100m-high waterfall in the Song Thanh nature reserve and hike Truong Son Trail.
The second tourist site, Bong Mieu gold mine, will open in June and is located in the centre of the mountains in Phu Ninh District’s Tam Lanh Commune, 35km from Tam Ky Town.
Bong Mieu gold mine was first mined by Cham ethnic minority people during the Nguyen dynasty. French colonialists subsequently took it over. Presently, it operates under the direction of Bong Mieu Gold Exploitation Co, a joint-venture between Canada’s Olympus Pacific Minerals Inc and two Vietnamese enterprises.
“All the preparation is basically finished,” Dinh Hai said. ” The most recent work, funded by the provincial budget, is a new 3km-long road from the mine area’s gates to Trang waterfall and is now progressing rapidly.”
To help research the types of activities which might draw tourists to the area, the tourism department organised a delegation of travel agencies to Bong Mieu gold mine last year.
“After gathering ideas, we realised that if visitors can work directly with workers, it makes them more interested,” the director said. “Tourists may look at ancient mining tools of the Cham people displayed in the showroom. They can also visit the mining area of the French-colonial period.”
An overview of success
The central provinces suffered heavy losses from flooding last year, but the number of visitors to the area still increased to 2mil, bringing the area VND500bil (US$31.2mil), respective increases of 13 and 14% compared with 2006.
Last year, the area also recorded 1mil foreign visitors, equal to one fourth of the total foreign visitors in Vietnam.
At present, the province has 92 hotels with 3,500 rooms. So far the approved total investment for infrastructure has climbed to VND556bil ($34.7mil). Among 155 tourism projects, 95 have been put into operation, and construction has begun on 11.
According to director Hai, the tourism sector has already trained people to head the new tours. Funded by the International Tourism Organisation, the ongoing training course has attracted 36 tourist workers. It provides knowledge about community-based tourism and offers experiential knowledge from successful project like Ban Ho Village in Sapa, Kim Bong carpentry village in Hoi An, Doi Hamlet in Thua Thien-Hue, and ThoiSonIsland in Tien Giang.
Ethnic minority people themselves had also been given a crash course on tourism as they were the beneficiaries of the community-based tourism, Hai said.
“Cotu people in BhoHongVillage, under the guidance of a local tourism company, earn money by supplying a service,” Hai commented.
At the same time that the village is pursuing new avenues, traditional festivals and folk culture will be maintained.
Two domestic tourism promotion programmes for this year include a tourist season package in Hoi An spanning three months and a Miss Viet Nam Contest in August. Quang Nam will continue attending tourism fairs aimed at drawing more Russian and South Korean visitors, markets with great potential in Vietnam.
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