Northeast Vietnam – the “gap” of adventure tourism

Mục lục

Abundant resources remain untapped, high potential yet becoming a ‘gap’.

Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Lang Son…despite being rich in potential for adventure tourism, with activities ranging from paragliding, cave exploration, forest trekking to mountain climbing, biking, off-road racing,… Northeast Vietnam is still considered a “gap” in the development of adventure tourism.

Still struggling to get started

Before the pandemic, every couple of months, Dung’s group (from Hoang Mai, Hanoi) consisting of close friends, would gather and embark on adventurous trips. Although they call it “phượt” (backpacking), the group is passionate about conquering challenging destinations that require crossing forests, streams, and climbing steep mountains, like scaling Mount Fansipan, trekking to Lao Than Cloud Hunting Village in Y Ty (Lao Cai), or reaching the summit of Chieu Lau Thi (Ha Giang)…

“On Friday afternoon, we depart from Hanoi and return late Sunday to be ready for work on Monday. After multiple trips, our group has learned how to ensure safety, along with guidance from local people, which gives us peace of mind,” Dung shared.

Recently, adventure tourism has gained significant attention and interest from many tourists. However, when traveling to northern provinces like Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Lang Son many adventure-seeking groups still organize their own trips and hire local villagers as guides and support for carrying equipment and cooking.

In the Central region, especially in Quang Binh, tours exploring the cave system have developed quite extensively, with professional and well-organized services, attracting a large number of visitors. On the other hand, in the Northeastern region, despite its great potential, Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, Director of the Tourism Research Institute (Vietnam National Administration of Tourism), commented that adventure tourism has not found a solid foothold. Most of the tours are still a combination of adventure and traditional tourism, and the quality of the workforce has not reached a high standard with inadequate professional training.

Moreover, the competition in the market is becoming increasingly fierce, especially for adventure tourism in the Northeast, which is still relatively young and has many weaknesses. Competition between destinations in the region also demands high investments in this type of tourism product.

A typical example is Ha Giang. Although the region has tremendous potential, the development of adventure tourism products is still in its early stages. According to the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Ha Giang, the province has only invested in two adventure tourism projects: the paragliding project in Hoang Su Phi district and the high-altitude zip line entertainment project at the Pa Piu Resort in Bac Me district.

In Cao Bang, most units and individuals engaged in adventure tourism services operate on a small scale or independently. Due to the lack of clear guidance and regulations at the local level, many adventure tourism businesses have to suspend their operations.

The team of guides and service providers in local areas is also a challenge. There are very few local guides who meet the requirements, and most of them can only participate in roles like porters, mainly involved in transportation.

Mr. Pham Van Manh, CEO of Vietnam Expeditions, believes that adventure tourism in the Northeast is still in its early stages, even considered a “gap” in tourism, as it has not received significant attention from investors for building and developing tourism products. However, this also means that the potential is still relatively intact, providing a foundation for local authorities to study planning, invite investments, and develop tourism products.

Don’t let the potential remain untapped for too long.

Research by Research DIVE shows that in 2019, the global adventure tourism market was worth $609 billion USD, and this figure is forecasted to increase to around $1,796 billion USD by 2027, with an annual growth rate of about 15%.

Europe has been a dominant market for adventure tourism, accounting for 30% of the visitors to Asia. Each year, approximately 100 million European tourists participate in adventure tours, with the highest numbers coming from Germany and the UK.

However, to develop adventure tourism and attract international visitors, the Northeastern region still faces many limitations. Pham Van Manh assesses that the transportation infrastructure in the area is still weak, with only road connections available, making it challenging for tourists to access destinations. Travelers have to spend 6-8 hours, equivalent to 1 to 2 days of travel, to reach their destinations. Moreover, significant investors have not yet entered the region, leading to underdeveloped and unprofessional tourism products, lacking safety measures and having low attractiveness and effectiveness.

Furthermore, there has been a lack of dynamic and proactive collaboration with reputable organizations, media, and businesses in building and organizing adventure tourism products in the form of movements or regular events.

The mechanisms and policies for selecting and licensing adventure tourism operations in localities have not received sufficient attention. Many potential destinations seem to be “held back” and have not been carefully chosen for deserving investors, causing the potential to remain untapped.

On the contrary, some valuable resources have been entrusted to unworthy investors, resulting in wastage of resources and harm to the ecological environment and sustainability of the destinations. Examples include cutting through mountains to build Lung Cu Pagoda or constructing an observation elevator and visiting Don Cao historical site in Dong Van. The ongoing unresolved issue of Ma Pi Leng Panorama Inn in Meo Vac is also a prominent example.

To promote the development of adventure tourism in the Northeastern provinces, the Tourism Research Institute proposes strengthening the collaboration between the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the Tourism Association, and local authorities in developing strategies, programs, and promotional plans for adventure tourism.

The Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Ha Giang suggests the implementation of specific mechanisms and policies to attract investments in adventure tourism. They recommend reviewing and evaluating the feasibility and appropriate direction for the potential development of adventure tourism. Additionally, mechanisms should be in place to avoid redundancy of adventure tourism products among localities, such as almost every province offering paragliding tours.

In conclusion, it is essential to address these challenges and implement coordinated efforts and tailored policies to fully unlock the potential of adventure tourism in the Northeastern region.

Ngoc Ha.