Terraced rice fields in Yen Bai province (Photo: VNA)

Dien Bien (VNA) – The expanded northwestern region welcomed more than 20 million tourists in 2018, including nearly 2 million foreigners, heard a conference in Dien Bien province’s Dien Bien Phu city on March 17.

The expanded northwestern provinces, namely Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Hoa Binh, Son La, Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Phu Tho and Ha Giang, earned a combined nearly 23 trillion VND (989 million USD) from the tourism sector, up 26 percent year-on-year and exceeding the set target by 9 percent.

According to the steering board for the tourism cooperation programme in eight expanded northwestern provinces, the localities focused on developing special tourism products and paid attention to tourism promotion through exhibitions and communication work.

They sent delegations to the Vietnam-Northern Laos tourism promotion conference in the Lao province of Luang Prabang and carried out tourism cooperation activities in Laos’ northern provinces.

However, the development pace has yet to match their potential and advantages, the board said, pointing out limitations in technical infrastructure, transport and human resources, along with unattractive inter-regional tourism products.

Besides, the region has failed to attract large-scale projects to create breakthroughs for the local tourism sector, while cooperation programmes have not brought about good outcomes, the board added.

In 2019, the board aims to step up tourism connectivity and promotion, as well as human resources development in service of the sector.

Special attention will be paid to cooperation in tourism product development between the eight provinces by organising a photo contest, developing waterway tourism connecting Hoa Binh with Son La, Dien Bien and Lai Chau through Da River, and implementing cooperation documents signed with Laos’ northern provinces.

They provinces will continue to participate in international travel fairs and promote northwestern culture in Hanoi, while organising training courses for tourism workers.-VNA