The Mekong Delta’s problem: It takes 90 minutes to drive 50kms

 Tourism growth in the Mekong Delta remains incommensurate with its huge development potential, in large part due to an absence of connectivity among localities in the region and between the Mekong Delta provinces and Ho Chi Minh City.

the mekong deltas problem it takes 90 minutes to drive 50kms
Mekong Delta representatives sign tourism cooperation agreements

Short stays

Speaking at a recent conference, the Chairman of the Bac Lieu Province People’s Committee Duong Thanh Trung said the Mekong Delta lacks tourist centers and destinations, and the range of tourist offerings remains poor and must be diversified.

He urged that a strategy on development and diversification of tourist offerings be developed and that the region strengthen tourism connectivity programs, especially encourage large enterprises in Ho Chi Minh City to invest in tourism in the Mekong Delta.

Nguyen Huu Tho, Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said the delta, which includes Can Tho City and 12 provinces, attracted 3.4 million foreign visitors in 2018, a modest figure compared to the potential. Less than half stayed overnight, according to the association. Many travel agencies only use the region as a day trip on their itinerary for international visitors, which centers on Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietravel General Director Nguyen Quoc Ky said transport infrastructure linking the Mekong Delta with Ho Chi Minh City and southeastern provinces remains inadequate and inconsistent and does not satisfy the region’s actual socioeconomic and tourism development needs.

International visitors usually fly into Ho Chi Minh City and travel to the delta by road, but the highway network is not good enough to help tourism flourish, Ky said at the recent Mekong Delta Tourism Development Forum held in Can Tho.

Vo Anh Tai, Deputy General Director of another travel giant Saigontourist, said it currently takes visitors up to an average of 70-90 minutes to travel 50km in the delta.

Tai cited the Hanoi – Lao Cai Expressway in northern Vietnam as a typical example of how good transport infrastructure can boost tourism growth.

Route branding

According to Bui Ta Hoang Vu, Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism, the city has been working with Mekong Delta localities for years but they have not created special tourist offerings due to poor tourism promotion activities.

Vu said connectivity and cooperation among localities is very important for tourism development. Ho Chi Minh City and Mekong Delta provinces/cities have complementary tourist offering structures. The city is strong in MICE, shopping, culinary, sports, entertainment and community culture-based tours, while Mekong Delta localities are strong in ecological, orchard, river-way and island tours, he said. Connectivity between Ho Chi Minh City and 13 Mekong Delta provinces will help the 14 localities bring into play their advantages, expand tourism markets and attract more visitors, Vu added.

Proposing solutions to promote tourism development in the Mekong Delta, travel business representatives suggested that Ho Chi Minh City arrange tours to the Mekong Delta for visitors. They said tours to the delta should be divided into three route groups with specific and typical tourist offerings. These should include Ho Chi Minh City – Long An – Tien Giang – Vinh Long – Can Tho – Hau Giang – Soc Trang – Bac Lieu – Ca Mau; Ho Chi Minh City – Tien Giang – Ben Tre – Tra Vinh – Can Tho – Bac Lieu – Ca Mau; and Long An – Dong Thap – An Giang – Kien Giang routes.

Ho Chi Minh City and 13 Mekong Delta provinces signed a cooperative agreement on establishing a tourism cooperation council chaired by Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong. The 2020 to 2025 agreement will strengthen information exchange on tourism development among the 14 localities, develop tourist offerings, stimulate tourism promotion, develop human resources, and facilitate investment in tourism development.

Hau Ty