A tourist rides a zipline across Chay River to Toi Cave in Quang Binh province (Source:VNA)
HCM City (VNA) – Deputy PM Vuong Dinh Hue has promised help from the Government for the tourism sector in the central provinces hit hard by the Formosa serious environmental incident .

Hue spoke at a conference held on July 15 at the Government Office in Hanoi about sustainable development of the tourism industry, particularly in the wake of the Formosa incident.

Tourism was hit hardest in the central province of Quang Binh among the four provinces affected by the toxic aftermath caused by the illegal discharge of untreated waste water from the Formosa Plastics Group plant in the central province of Ha Tinh.

The number of tourists in Quang Binh in recent months fell 20 percent to 1.3 million, compared to the same period last year, according to the Tran Tien Dung, Vice Chairman of Quang Binh Province’s People’s Committee.

“Construction on several new hotels and restaurants in the province has been temporarily shelved,” Dung said. “Investors are waiting for the situation to improve to resume their work.”

Travel companies and hotels in Quang Binh have had to reduce staff to cut costs due to fewer tourists, while measures taken by the provincial government and local companies have failed to reverse the decline in tourist arrivals.

Besides beautiful beaches, Quang Binh Province is the site of Son Doong, the world’s largest cave, and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, named a World Heritage site in 2003.

In the central province of Thua Thien-Hue , the Formosa incident has had less of an impact.

Nguyen Dung, Vice Chairman of the province’s People’s C ommittee, said the number of tourists to Hue rose by 8 percent in April, the peak time of the Formosa incident.

Dung attributed the increase to the province’s tourism cooperation with Da Nang City and Hoi An in the central province of Quang Nam.

The province has also combined cultural and religious tourism, along with festival tourism, in a bid to lure more local and foreign visitors.

Deputy PM Hue said the Government would cooperate with localities to resolve the Formosa incident but he also noted that the provincial governments must be proactive and creative. He urged them to learn from Th u a Thien-Hu e Province’s tourism initiatives.

He said that provinces still lacked linkages with other areas and that the public needed to be more aware about the importance of tourism.

The Government would continue to fund tourism activities but with more careful consideration, Hue said, adding that provinces and cities must begin to take the initiative. “Capital is not enough,” he said.

Dang Viet Dung, V ice Chairman of Da Nang’s People’s Committee, said a lack of linkages among localities and effective tourism promotions were part of the problem.

He also pointed out that more Vietnamese were choosing to travel abroad instead of locally on their holidays.

Nguyen Xuan Binh, Vice Chairman of the northern port city of Hai Phong’s People’s Committee, said the tourism industry still faced challenges in competitiveness and sustainable growth, including a shortage of skilled workers and lack of high-quality services.

The negative images of street vendors and overcharging for services, for example, had damaged the tourism industry.

Experts have said that Vietnam should develop solutions to better balance conservation and economic growth and benefits for communities, businesses and government agencies.

In early April, large quantities of fish washed up near the Vung Ang Economic Zone in the central province of Ha Tinh. The incident stretched 200 kilometres along the central Vietnamese coast, as far south as Thua Thien-Hue .

The hardest hit were Ha Tinh, Quang Tri , Quang Binh and Thua Thien-Hue provinces where thousands of fishermen lost customers or were forced to sell fish at a loss.

In late June, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel acknowledged that its 10.6 billion USD steel plant had been responsible for the massive fish deaths, pledging to pay 500 million USD to compensate for damages.

The central government has assigned the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to develop a blueprint that earmarks tourism as a key economic industry of the country.-VNA