5:23:22 PM | 27/10/2016
Son La is a northwest mountainous province with a lot of potential and advantages for tourism development. Nevertheless, tourist arrivals to Son La province are very modest in comparison with the region. Thus, to develop its tourism as commensurate with its enormous potential and advantages, the province must seek out effective solutions.
Son La province is 300 kilometres from Hanoi along National Road 6. The province, with a natural area of 14,174 km2, is bordered by Yen Bai, Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces in the north, Phu Tho and Hoa Binh provinces in the east, Dien Bien province in the west and Thanh Hoa province in the south. It shares a 250 kilometre national borderline with Laos. The province has an average altitude of 700 metres and its renowned Moc Chau Plateau has an average altitude of 1,050 metres. Lying in the basin of the Da and Ma rivers, its terrain features high mountains, but Moc Chau and Na San plateaus are relatively flat. The province has many spectacular landscapes like mysterious caves, gorgeous waterfalls, gentle rivers, fertile valleys and hot-water springs. Son La has a tropical monsoon climate with average temperature of 180c - 250c and high mountains create many subclimate regions. The average annual precipitation is 1,200 - 1,600 mm; air humidity is 81 per cent on average; and forests cover 73 per cent of the natural area. The province now has four nature reserves, namely Xuan Nha with 27,084 ha (Moc Chau district), Sop Cop with 18,709 ha (Sop Cop District), Copia with 19,354 ha (Thuan Chau district) and Ta Xua with 17,560 ha (Bac Yen district). These reserves have high biological diversity and conserve many rare, valuable species.
Son La province has 12 administrative units (one capital city and 11 districts), 1.1 million people and 12 ethnic groups. The Thai are the most populous group, accounting for 54 per cent of the population, largely living in Son La City, Quynh Nhai, Thuan Chau and Muong La districts. Kinh is the second most populous ethnic group with 16.1 per cent of population, followed by Mong (15.3 per cent), Muong (7.5 per cent), Xinh Mun (2 per cent), Dao (1.7 per cent) and others (3.4 per cent): Kho Mu, Khang, La Ha, Lao, Tay and Hoa. With its ethnic diversity, Son La preserves many traditional cultural values which are appealing to tourists. Besides, it has many famous cultural and historical monuments such as Son La Prison, King Le Thanh Tong Temple, Mong Festival and Boat Racing Festival in Quynh Nhai.
With its geographical location, abundant and diverse tourism potential and appropriate policies, the tourism sector of Son La province has made remarkable progress and contributed positively to local economic development and to national tourism development.
The province had only three travel companies and 110 tourist accommodation establishments in 2012, but up to 2016 it has five travel firms and nearly 150 tourist accommodation establishments with more than 3,500 rooms, including 30 hotels of 1-3 stars. Some tourist attractions received investment capital for infrastructure construction; people’s perception of tourism improved; travel companies invested in entertainment services to serve tourists. Many new forms of tourism have been introduced in the province such as discovery tourism, adventure tourism, cultural tourism and community tourism. In 2012, the province welcomed 1.115 million visitor arrivals and earned VND502 billion of tourism revenue. In 2015, its tourist arrivals topped 1.597 million and fetched VND645 billion of tourism revenue, up 43.2 per cent and 29 per cent over 2012, respectively. Tourism services have helped change the growth structure of services in the province’s economy.
However, the tourism sector of Son La province still shows many limitations and weaknesses. Specifically, the province’s investment attraction policies are unclear while administrative procedures remain cumbersome and unattractive to investors. It has not been able to integrate infrastructure development investment programmes, national target programmes, business support programmes and social security programmes for tourism development. For its part, the tourism sector has not created and developed its own typical tourism brand. In addition to low-quality tourism products and services, tourism infrastructure remains undeveloped. Tourism results are incommensurate with local potential and advantage. Business and service efficiency is low. Not many residential communities engage in providing tourism services. Destinations lack identity to impress tourists. Human resources are inadequate and disqualified.
After defining its strengths and limitations, the province focused on building and managing the tourism development master plan to 2020, with a vision to 2030. The Government has also approved the development plan for Moc Chau national tourism site to 2020, with a vision to 2030 under Decision 2050/QD-TTg dated November 12, 2014. This is an important and essential step in tourism development strategy of Son La province, which takes Moc Chau as a springboard for tourism development. On December 30, 2014, the province issued Decision 3586/QD-TTg to adjust the master plan for Son La tourism development to 2020, with a vision to 2030; and Decision 3674 dated December 31, 2014 to approve the overall plan for tourism development in hydropower reservoirs in Son La to 2020, with a vision to 2030. Currently, Son La is focusing on carrying out the Prime Minister’s Decision on Moc Chau national tourism site.
Specific contents of tourism development orientation
The province will focus on building and issuing management mechanisms and investment incentives, taking advantage of all resources for infrastructure development; gradually build infrastructure for important tourist areas like Moc Chau tourism site, Son La hydropower reservoir tourism site (Quynh Nhai and Muong La districts) and Phu Yen tourism site; completing adjustments and supplements to tourism development plans to 2020, with a vision to 2030 as well as detailed tourism site development plans for Moc Chau national tourism site and Son La hydropower reservoir tourism site; review and modify tourism development plans; make public tourism development plans to encourage all sectors to engage in tourism development; diversify tourist services and develop high-quality tourism products to attract tourists. Particularly, Son La will select and restore traditional and modern festivals across the province to create continuous tourism products in a year and shape a new tourism image for Son La.
The province will build community-based tourism villages in all districts/city (each district/city will have 2-4 tourism villages) to develop community-based cultural tourism and ecological tourism to meet more diverse and higher demands of tourists; utilise natural and landscape advantages together with tangible and intangible cultural values in each locality
The province will focus on investing some tourist attractions like Ban On Caves, Ban Ang pine forest, Dai Yem Waterfall (Moc Chau district); Van Hong Pagoda (Moc Chau); Chi Day Cave (Yen Chau); Tien Phong Lake (Mai Son); Nang Han Temple (Quynh Nhai); Pa Uon Bridge (Quynh Nhai); Son La hydropower plant (Muong La); King Le Thai Tong Temple and Ban Mong hot-water spring (Son La City); Noong Cop pine forest and Suoi Chieu Lake (Phu Yen). It will mobilise capital resources to invest in forest development to create a unique landscape to visitors.
The province will continue to improve its management capacity, service organisation and tourist attraction; strengthen connectivity with other provinces in the region to build inter-province tours to tap unique identities of each destination; and continuously improve product quality.
The province will further train, foster and attract professional, experienced human resources to develop tourism services; step up tourism promotion and advertisement on mass media and take advantage of assistance from the central authority and other provinces for tourism development; and restore traditional festivals.
The province will determine the list of priority tourism investment projects to 2030, focusing on building resorts, amusement parks, hotels, high-quality tourism infrastructure and environment-friendly tourism forms; build tourism infrastructure system development plans, with priority given to developing hotels of international standards and building recreational parks; support developing suitable tourism products based on local natural resources, humanities and ecosystems.
The province will organise surveys, workshops and consultations with experts on selection of typical, unique tourist products; consider developing and selling tourism products to travel companies; transfer operation, management and quality control models to localities. The province will give priority to the development of the following tourism products: Cultural tourism (studying, selecting and restoring traditional festivals; maintaining folk arts and cultural activities; restoring cottage industry villages); ecological tourism (focusing investment on developing Moc Chau national tourism site and Son La hydropower reservoir tourism site into national tourist attractions); and community tourism (focusing investment on selected community tourism to preserve and promote cultural values of ethnic minorities).
The province will carry out communication programmes; raise public awareness of responsible tourism, environmental protection and tourism resources; raising public awareness of cultured and civilised behaviours in hospitality sector; build and develop cross-sector cooperation plans to ensure security, safety and hygiene for tourists in destinations; build coordinating and interest-sharing mechanisms for local communities and enterprises in protecting natural resources and the environment in tourist sites and attractions; enhance professionalism in domestic and international tourism promotion and marketing; take part in major tourism programmes and events in the region and in the nation; and focus on building the identity of Son La tourism, featuring friendliness, uniqueness, attractiveness and security.
To achieve these goals, the province will need close and consistent coordination at all levels and branches. The Provincial Party Committee assigned the Provincial People’s Committee to direct all branches and levels to seriously follow Party and State policies, directives and resolutions on tourism development and adapt them to fit local conditions.