Tourists take photos of ethnic people in Sa Pa Town, Lao Cai Province. (Source: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) – As an economic and tourism hub in the country, HCM City plays a vital role in the development of tourism in the northwestern region, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has said.

The city administration needs to offer more incentives to encourage tourism enterprises and investors to cooperate with localities in the northwest region, Phuc, who is also head of the Northwest Steering Committee, told a conference held in HCM City on November 23 to promote investment in tourism in the northwest.

It attracted officials from HCM City and 14 provinces in the northwestern region as well as inbound and outbound travel agents and tourism investors in HCM City.

Phuc urged the city to foster cooperation with the northwest to develop tourism linkages, promote images of the region and its potential to possible investors, and provide training in tourism.

"The northwest has huge potential for tourism, but it has yet to be effectively exploited in a sustainable manner."

The region is home to more than 30 ethnic groups, a slew of tangible and intangible cultural heritages and famous historical sites and imposing landscapes, he said.

Yet tourism accounts for an insignificant part of the region's economy due to poor infrastructure and lack of sophisticated products and professional tourism operators, he said.

Last year the region received 8.7 million tourists, including 1.5 million foreign nationals, while the country received 7.8 million international arrivals, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Phuc called on the northwestern provinces to consider offering incentives to attract investors in infrastructure, particularly transport, hotels, and eco-tourism projects, and develop specific tourism products and human resource training in tourism.

The region has 12 areas earmarked for development under the national strategy on tourism development in the period through 2020, including the Dong Van Karst Plateau, Ban Gioc Falls, Mau Son, Ba Be Lake, Tan Trao, Dien Bien, Hoa Binh Reservoir.

Four national tourist attractions that feature in the strategy are Lao Cai city (Lao Cai province), Pac Po historical site (Cao Bang province), Lang Son city (Lang Son province), and Mai Chau district (Hoa Binh province).

HCM City is a key tourist market for other localities in the country, Nguyen Thanh Phong, Deputy Secretary of the city Party Committee, said.

The city has signed agreements with 53 cities and provinces, including four in the northwest: Bac Kan, Lang Son, Phu Tho, and Ha Giang.

It would carry out various measures to strengthen tourism cooperation with northwestern localities, Phong said.-VNA