The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Vietnamese Government on November 25 signed a 50 million USD loan agreement to upgrade the country’s tourism infrastructure, boost tourist spending, and create more jobs for poor and ethnic minority communities.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, ABD Country Director for Vietnam Tomoyuki Kimura said that tourism development projects are an effective way of creating jobs, developing work skills, and reducing poverty.

“A core goal of this project is to promote inclusive economic growth by creating income-generating opportunities to benefit poor and ethnic minorities, women in particular,” he noted.

It aims to boost tourism competitiveness in Dien Bien, Ha Tinh, Kien Giang, Lao Cai, and Tay Ninh provinces, which are situated in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) economic corridors.

Upgrades to 45 kilometers of rural roads will open access to tourist attractions in under-developed areas with large ethnic minority populations. More than 30,000 people will benefit from better access to markets and social services, while environmental conditions at tourist sites will be improved.

The project is expected to lift annual tourism revenue to 480 million USD by 2019, from 190 million USD in 2012, helping to create 85,000 additional tourism-related jobs, about 60 percent of which will go to women.

It will also support regional cooperation and integration by helping Vietnam implement regional tourism standards and promote multi-country tour circuits.

Tourism plays an increasingly important role in Vietnam ’s economy. In 2013, the country received over 7.5 million international tourists, a 10.6 percent increase from 2012.

The sector directly contributed 4.5 percent to the national GDP and sustained 2.3 million jobs last year, more than 9 percent of the country’s total employment.-VNA