Dien Bien Phu Tourism seeks to boost economy hinh anh 1A dancing performance at the festival's opening ceremony (Photo: VNA)

Dien Bien (VNA) - The signature spring festival of Dien Bien, or Hoa Ban Festival, beg​an on March 14 night in Dien Bien city with hundreds of local performers and international visitors in attendance.

Named after the most beautiful flower in the region, hoa ban, or the orchid trees, the festival resembles the ethnic Thai groups in Dien Bien province, where the Thai makes up 38 percent, the Mong 30 percent and the Kinh, major Viet ethnic group, 20 percent of the population.

Thousands of local residents from 19 ethnic groups, and tourists from across the country, have come to the world-famous Dien Bien Phu valley to join in a grand celebration. Also, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has announced that Dien Bien Phu - Pa Khoang is to become the National Tourism Centre of the northwestern region.

Phuc said, “We call on all relevant authorities and government establishments, as well as the private sector, to join together in realizing the tourism capacity of the region. We need to reduce poverty and increase the people’s living standards.”

The master plan sets an ambitious target to receive 650,000 tourists, including 170,000 foreigners by the year 2020, creating 13,000 jobs. If this target is met by its deadline, the province will raise the target higher, seeking to receive 1,5 million tourists in 2030 and creating 30,000 new jobs.

Aimed at promoting tourism in Vietnam’s northwestern region, starting from Dien Bien city and reaching out through the international border checkpoint at Tay Trang to the northern Lao provinces, as well as northeastern region of Thailand, the master plan will create thousands of jobs in tourism and supporting services to raise the GDP per capita in Dien Bien province, currently one of the lowest in the country.

According to the province’s five-year economic development report released by the People’s Committee at the end of 2015, Dien Bien has lagged behind in reaching its economic targets. The Gross Regional Domestic Products (GRDP) in the five-year period grew only 9.12 percent annually, lowered than the projected target of 12 percent a year.

Additionally, all other development criteria, including the average growth in agro-forestry, fishery and industry, as well as growth in services, did not meet their targets. “GRDP per capita in 2015 was projected to reach over 1,012 USD, lower than half of the national GRDP of 2,245 USD,” said the report.

“This master plan shows a very positive development,” according to Tran Le, a biologist by training, who has been consulted on the development policies by the provincial authorities. “The victory at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 really changed our country’s status in the world political arena,” Le told Vietnam News. “But economically, Dien Bien lagged too far behind other parts of the country.

“Only fifty years later, a major road had been completed to travel straight to Muong Phang, where the brain and soul of the Dien Bien Phu Campaign were stationed and gave out decisive directions,” he said. “Now, 60 years later, I am glad to see new changes taking place in the past few years.”

The master plan connects history, such as Dien Bien Phu and the sites of the former battlefields with the present, including the picturesque Pa Khoang Reservoir for rest and recreation. Pa Khoang provides water for irrigation, especially to grow the famous Dien Bien rice in the Muong Thanh fields, and now also provides fishes and other aquatic products for local restaurants serving ethnic Thai food. Unique historical relics, a distinctive and colourful cultural heritage, beautiful landscapes, healthy culinary practices and hot springs complexes in the area shall make Dien Bien-Pa Khoang one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

A new asphalt road, currently under construction, has been enlarged from Muong Phang in the forest to Pa Khoang in a beautiful forest setting, reducing travel times to less than a half an hour to reach the reservoir.

Suspension bridges connecting the islands in the reservoir area also provide impressive views to tourists and makes transport much easier.

The three-day Hoa Ban festival shall include a trade fair, an orchid show at the city’s square, and a parade with representatives from all districts singing distinctive ethnic songs and performing dances. A friendly mini football cup between provincial departments, traditional games played between some districts of Dien Bien and others in Laos and Thailand, a photo exhibition and a book show will also be held during the festival.

Organisers say funding comes from provincial budgets, with financial support from the private sector.-VNA