The largest tourist development project in Viet Nam will start in eight northwestern mountain provinces next year.

Local authorities, officials from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), tourism operators and training institutions in the region gathered in Lao Cai City yesterday to discuss the plan.

One of the first steps to be taken will be the establishment of the Northwest Travel Destination Management Board to co-ordinate inter-regional tourism.

Community-based tourism projects will be set up in ethnic villages to preserve local culture and protect the environment.

Part of the project will be to help local people make trips to successful community-based eco-tourism destinations to acquire experiences.

Particularly, there will be strong support on promoting tourism of the eight provinces on their official websites.

Representatives agreed for the need to build unique tourism products to harness the cultural and natural advantages of the region.

Deputy Director of the VNAT Hoang Thi Diep said that the present approach to visitors did not meet demand, despite the large potential.

"We will work with local authorities to sort out the obstacles hampering tourist development of tourism and find out solutions," she said.

Representatives said one of the top challenges was the low quality of human resources. Most people went into community-based tourism without any training.

This made training an important component of the project.

The northwestern provinces - Dien Bien, Yen Bai, Son La, Hoa Binh, Phu Tho, Ha Giang, Lai Chau and Lao Cai - this year received more than a million tourists who spent trillions of Vietnamese dong. The new project will be funded by an 11 million euro (14.3 milion USD) grant from the European Union and 1.1 million euro (1.43 million USD) from the Vietnamese Government ./.