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02/02/2024 - 09:15

Developing green tourism in Long An province requires fully realizing the potential of its natural and cultural heritage

As people become more conscious of the need to conserve the environment and learn about the distinctive cultural values and natural resources found in every place, including the province of Long An, green tourism has grown in importance within the current and future global tourism sector.

With Binh Hiep international border gate (Kien Tuong town) and My Quy Tay national border gate (Duc Hue district), Long An province shares a border with the Kingdom of Cambodia that spans more than 134 kilometers and sharing a common boundary with Ho Chi Minh City, spanning across National Highways 1A and 50. It is situated 40km from the city center, 45km from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, 40km from Cat Lai Port, 45km from Saigon Port, 30km from Hiep Phuoc Port, and 18km from Bourbon Port. The finished Ben Luc - Long Thanh expressway will link Long An and Long Thanh international airport (in the province of Dong Nai) in the upcoming years, covering a distance of roughly 80 kilometers. This is a crucial prerequisite for Long An to grow its extensive international collaboration, which encompasses the travel and tourist sector. It has always grown in popularity as a travel destination for eco-aware travelers due to its stunning natural surroundings and distinctive cultural heritage. Thus, making the most of the value of the region's natural and cultural assets is essential to the current and future development of green tourism in Long An province. The province of Long An has long focused on protecting and enhancing natural and cultural heritage that is connected to the growth of tourism in recent years, nonetheless, there isn't a single, revolutionary approach to growing eco-friendly and sustainable tourism, nor has it produced a wildly popular travel destination both domestically and outside.

In response to such circumstance, the province of Long An has concentrated on carrying out the task of restoring and enhancing the historical and cultural relics and picturesque locations in the region; Specifically, Long An organized contributions from the populace totaling billions VND for the preservation and adornment of temple artifacts, fostering socializing. Based on the rigorous application of laws governing the preservation, repair, and restoration of historical and cultural artifacts as well as picturesque locations, while honoring the originality of the artifacts, The cultural legacy values that have been established and conserved by numerous generations of ancestors have been effectively protected and promoted by Long An. Make the most of social resources to properly invest in, repair, enhance, and publicize the significance of artifacts creating the relics' faces has several advantages that support investment attractiveness and efficiently generate historical and cultural values for travel.

Through preserving and promoting the value of intangible cultural heritage by collecting, preserving and promoting good customs and traditions of ethnic minorities, preserving traditional festivals and beliefs ; At the same time, exploit the value of biodiversity and flora resources, natural landscapes for tourism, thanks to that, in 2023 Long An welcomed a total number of 01 million visitors, an increase of 50% compared to the same period in 2022 and an increase of 30% of the 2023 plan. Of which there are about 16,000 international visitors, an increase of 76% compared to 2022, an increase of 45% compared to the plan; Revenue is estimated at 560 billion VND, up 72% compared to 2022, up 38% compared to plan.

Long An boasts a varied and distinctive cultural legacy.

There are currently 125 historical and cultural artifacts in Long An, comprising 21 national, 104 provincial, and relics are safely shielded from harm in the age of industrialization and modernization because of their ranking.

Funds from the Provincial Budget and the Central Government's National Target Program to Prevent Degradation of Monuments have been used to restore, enhance, and maintain a number of monuments, including: Historical relic area at intersection of Duc Hoa, Binh Thanh, Vam Nhut Tao, Vinh Phong communal house, Ton Thanh Pagoda, Nguyen Huynh Duc Mausoleum, Hundred Pillar House, Phuoc Lam Pagoda, Binh Ta archaeological relics...Long An is home to many ethnic minorities and is a land with special cultural traditions, a convergence of people from many places to work and live, accumulating its own identity, creating Long An people's style: “Enthusiastic, Sincere, Hospitable”. Organizing cultural exchange events, showcasing folk arts, and encouraging interaction between the local community and visitors are a few ways to preserve and capitalize on this cultural legacy. Long An province currently has more than 430,000 religious followers (accounting for about 28% of the population); The main religions in Long An are Buddhism, Cao Dai, Protestantism, Hoa Hao Buddhism, Vietnamese Pure Land Buddhist Association, Islam, Buu Son Ky Huong, Minh Su Dao and Minh Ly Dao, Tu An Hieu Nghia. In recent years, religious people here have done many specific, practical, and effective jobs, contributing to building the homeland and promoting great national unity. By 2022, the population of Long An province will reach 1,763,754 people, population density will reach 392 people/km². The urbanization rate by 2022 will reach 36%. Long An currently has 28 ethnic groups living together, including 27 ethnic minorities including Chinese, Kh'mer, Cham,...accounting for 0.2% of the population. The cultural traits and way of life of the people of Long An, where Vietnamese culture is predominant, are depicted in the ethnic structure above.

Tan Lap floating village's river scenery has a natural beauty that never fails to draw visitors from all over the world (shot by Huu Tuan)

Travelers from all over are always impressed by Long An's natural heritage.

According to scientific surveys, the terrain of Long An tends to gradually descend from the west to the north, east, and south. The topography of Long An province is split into three primary regions: ancient alluvial areas along the border, floodplain areas and Vam Co river area from the north of National Highway 1A to the southeast. This area includes Chau Thanh, Tan Tru, Can Duoc, Can Giuoc districts, Tan An city, southern Thu Thua district and Ben Luc district. This is a flat region with a dense population that is not prone to flooding. Higher hills and mounds can be seen in the province's border region with Tay Ninh and Ho Chi Minh City. There is marshy land in the West; this area is a portion of Dong Thap Muoi and is always inundated.

The climate in Long An is tropical monsoon-style humid. The yearly average temperature ranges from 270 to 280 degrees. There are two primary wind directions throughout the year: Southwest monsoon (May to September) and Northeast monsoon (October to April). Long An province boasts a dense network of rivers and canals. Vam Co Tay and Vam Co Dong are the two biggest rivers that traverse Long An province. The Vam Co Dong River rises in Cambodia and flows through Tay Ninh province before entering Long An. Its length in the province is 145 km, and its depth ranges from 17 to 21 meters. Additionally coming from Cambodia, the 160 km long Vam Co Tay River passes through Long An with an average depth of 12 to 15 meters. At the mouth of the Soai Rap River, the two rivers merge to form the Vam Co River, which empties into the sea.

With beautiful natural landscapes along both banks of the river, water flow and tides are quite stable all year round, and quite easy access to the daily life of people in the villages, which still maintain traditional villages. Production activities of traditional craft villages are associated with unique products, which preserve typical cultural values of the region to attract tourists from all over. Long An has a rich flora and fauna of the swamp ecosystem; Vam Co river system and its associated activities are seen as an especially significant type of tourism resource to be utilized, resulting in the production of a distinctive Long An tourism product.

Long An is a locality in the Mekong Delta with an average height above sea level of only about 2 - 3m. There is no large difference in terrain elevation throughout the province, so naturally it can be said that Long An is a homogeneous area, between places in the province there is little difference in climate, weather, temperature and rainfall, this is also the scientific basis for weather forecasting so that tourists can proactively equip themselves with essential necessities during their trips to explore Long An tourism.

Long An is a locality with many ecological landscape values, especially the wetland ecosystem and Vam Co river; many valuable revolutionary historical relics and cultural historical relics. In addition to the tourism values bestowed by nature and formed by a long history of development. In order to have popular tourist spots, Long An also makes investments. It may be argued that Long An is a province with a rich cultural and natural history and enormous potential for taking use of many kinds of tourism, such as: Ecotourism, tourism to experience river agricultural ecosystems, cultural tourism, historical tourism, spiritual tourism, agricultural tourism and conference tourism to advance contemporary green tourism both now and in the future.

Vam Co Tay Moi Bridge, a long-awaited bridge that unites love (shot by Huu Tuan)

The infrastructure for tourism in Long An province steadily catches up with both domestic and foreign travelers.

Long An province has recently implemented several solutions to gradually improve the quality of tourism services, infrastructure, and technical facilities, and create favorable conditions for Long An tourism to develop in order to grow in line with its position as a driving economic sector. Some outcomes, such as the following, have been achieved:

By 2023, there are 330 lodging options with 5,040 rooms in the province of which there are 55 hotels—06 of which are 2-star level hotels with a combined total of 169 rooms, 01 of which is a 1-star standard hotel with 10 rooms, and 252 of which are lodging places that provide tourists with the bare minimum of amenities, services, and methods. In the first half of 2023, the average room occupancy rate is 53%. There are currently 17 companies in the province offering travel services, comprising 4 (already licensed) firms offering foreign travel services and 13 (licensed businesses) offering domestic travel services. The entire province has 2,015 people working in the tourism sector (directly and indirectly); Of which there are about 100 people with university and postgraduate degrees, about 330 with college and intermediate degrees, and 600 people with primary training.

Recently, Long An province's tourism industry has continued to focus on developing specific tourism products, which are waterway tourism on Vam Co river, typical eco-tourism in Dong Thap Muoi region, entertainment tourism. The province has built and developed main tourism products such as: Weekend tourism, tourism to visit historical and cultural relics - revolutionary history, rural tourism, tourism products supporting transit tourism, flood season sightseeing tourism, research sightseeing tourism. In particular, priority should be given to developing tourism products that are unique and highly competitive, tourism propaganda and promotion work is regularly paid attention to, especially tourism promotion to foreign markets.

The Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has collaborated with other departments and localities to arrange numerous conferences and scientific seminars aimed at promoting tourism investment. This has helped to enhance Long An's tourism image both domestically and internationally, drawing in 30–35% more visitors annually than the previous year.

Recognizing the fundamental issues limiting Long An's tourism sector and the need for coordinated measures in order to grow green tourism in a sustainable manner.

The aforementioned outcomes are attributable to the frequent, multifaceted cooperation of all tiers and sectors in the propagandistic and legal education dissemination (including the tourism industry); thereby contributing to raising people's awareness of the role and position of the tourism industry, as well as the sense of responsibility of organizations and individuals for developing tourism to become a driving economic sector of the province; The management and assurance of the natural and social environment in tourism activities is increasingly strict and effective; The connection between industries and fields with tourism is increasingly clear. Tourism businesses, organizations and individuals providing tourism services to serve tourists have an increasing awareness and responsibility of business ethics, protecting the natural and social environment in tourist areas, contributing to the province's tourism development in a sustainable direction. However, there are currently few tourism-related activities in the province. For example, some companies take advantage of favorable legislation to draw in tourists, but project development is laborious and sluggish, wasting valuable land resources; Some tourism service business activities are still fragmented and overlapping, with connectivity and cooperation in tourism development between businesses and tourism establishments in the province within the region and the whole country are not yet strict and long-term; The quality of tourist service is limited; It has not created many groundbreaking, different national and international tourism products; Tourism service infrastructure still has certain limitations.

Despite significant attempts to develop tourism infrastructure, there are currently no five-star hotels. There are no highly professional national and international conference centers with a scale of 1000 - 1200 seats to organize multi-disciplinary event chains to promote the strengths of conference and seminar tourism.

Tourists to Long An are increasing by 30-35%/year, this is a very ideal number under current conditions, however international tourists are too modest compared to the total number of tourists, in 2023 Long An will welcome about 16,000 international visitors, so the total revenue of Long An tourism industry is not commensurate with the tourism potential compared to some other localities.

There are still far too few travel agencies; there are just 330 lodging options in the entire province; In the integration trend, the quality of human resources is still inadequate in comparison to the demands of development; University-educated human resources make up only 5.0% of the total human resources in the local tourism sector.

Proposing some suggestions on how to grow green tourism in a way that is consistent with how a dynamic economic sector is positioned to proactively integrate globally.

To achieve the goals set for Long An's tourism industry in the coming time, continue to identify the economic sector as a driving force to promote the development of other economic sectors, in addition to tourism development orientations. In the future, it is necessary to integrate a system of synchronous solutions, implement practically and effectively in the fields of planning management, investment, promotion, application of science and technology and improving the effectiveness of State management of tourism, etc.

1. Implement the tourism industry's planning and management in a timely and efficient manner.

It is necessary to immediately implement Decision 686/QD-TTg approving Long An Provincial Planning for the period 2021 - 2030, with a vision to 2050. The goal is that by 2030, Long An province will be the center of dynamic, effective and sustainable economic development of the southern region; become the gateway on the urban economic - industrial corridor of the Mekong Delta; closely connected with Ho Chi Minh City and the Southeast region; An important focal point for cooperation and trade with Cambodia. Forming economic corridors, regions, development centers and dynamic urban areas; adapt to climate change. National defense, security and social order and safety are guaranteed. The people have a prosperous, civilized and happy lives.

Planning spots with potential for natural resources and human resources throughout the province to attract tourism projects with new tourism products; fully prepare conditions and information to support investors and call for investment in exploiting breakthrough tourism approved by the Prime Minister to achieve the set goals, including the tourism industry as expected.

2. Intensify marketing campaigns, encourage travel, and broaden market research

To strengthen propaganda and promotion of Long An tourism; to improve the effectiveness of tourism and investment promotion activities for specific local products for domestic and international markets; to promote the unique features of Long An tourism to attract tourists. There is a synchronous solution to promote the cultural image and human style of Long An: "Enthusiastic, Sincere, Hospitality" with attractive and impressive content and methods for domestic and foreign tourists, creating a breakthrough in developing green tourism in the future.

3. Collaborate with pertinent technological and economic areas to maximize the tourism industry's total worth.

Tourism is an integrated economic sector that is highly interdisciplinary and socialized, so there needs to be close coordination between related sectors under the direction of the Provincial People's Committee. To strengthen the inter-sectoral coordination mechanism to manage the exploitation and protection of tourism environmental resources; To integrate contents according to provincial planning on related specialized projects such as traffic planning, urban development, cultural preservation and development, environmental protection, hunger eradication and poverty reduction, agriculture, new rural construction, agricultural tourism development, etc. to exploit the overall value of the tourism industry.

Actively apply science and technology in tourism industry management, synchronously deploy smart tourism and smart cities, and drastically implement digital transformation in the tourism industry. At the same time, build and introduce typical products of Long An such as Go Den Wine, Dao Market Fragrant Rice, Ben Luc pineapple, Chau Thanh Dragon Fruit, Long Tri Watermelon. To support craft villages that have enough conditions to develop into tourist attractions.

4. Regarding investment in tourism infrastructure development commensurate with the needs of international integration

To focus on investing state budget capital in a synchronous direction, having a key focus as a basis to stimulate high-quality tourism development; to prioritize investment in infrastructure development at key tourism development centers, integrated tourist areas, thematic tourist areas, and potential tourist destinations in remote areas. To promote all resources, both budget and extra-budget; having synchronous and effective solutions to attract domestic and foreign investment projects, both FDI and ODA, to create a breakthrough in the tourism industry in the coming time.

To mobilize the province's resources, taking advantage of the Central government's support to continue improving transportation infrastructure, and puting into operation the inter-provincial transportation system serving the requirements of linking and developing tours, routes, and tourism hubs of Long An province with localities in the region to strongly exploit regional links in the coming years.

To continue to invest in infrastructure in tourist areas and destinations. Equipped with a system of tourist guide signs to inform tourists and passenger transport vehicles. Developing high-quality commercial and utility service centers and central market systems. To continue to modernize and improve service quality of telecommunications, banking, finance, insurance, electricity, water supply and drainage services...consistenting with urban development orientation, especially Tan An city to become a green tourist city of the country and the region.

5. To diversify and improve the quality of tourism products to meet the increasing needs of tourists

To create strong changes in attracting investment and developing tourism products and services, especially entertainment areas in localities with potential for tourism development. Exploiting more qualified tourist attractions to have more tourism products to serve the needs of expanding tourism development space, form more tours and routes in Long An province and other provinces and cities in the region.

To call for investment to develop specific tourism products and types such as tourism associated with education, training, and scientific research; Tourism associated with historical culture; Traveling to explore the nature of river regions, ecology and conquer nature...Prioritizing investment projects that serve the entertainment needs of tourists at night and in the rainy season. Building folk culture, organize clubs to perform a number of traditional art forms with unique national cultural characteristics at tourist attractions serving tourists such as Cai Luong (southern Vietnamese folk song) and Don Ca Tai Tu (southern amateur music); Build new amateur music clubs to serve at restaurants, eco-tourism sites, and riverside eco-tourism routes.

To develop programs to exploit the cultural arts of the Southwest region to serve and attract tourists. To promote the application of scientific and technical advances to develop high-quality agricultural and handicraft products according to the OCOP (One Commune One Product) model, meeting the shopping needs and stimulating spending of tourists, develop the night-time economy;

6.There are solutions to synchronously develop urban areas in the direction of green urban areas, optimally exploiting green tourism in the future

Urgently implement Decision 686/QD-TTg approving Long An Provincial Planning for the period 2021 - 2030, vision to 2050 which focuses on green and sustainable urban development in the context of climate change and international integration. Creating favorable conditions for investors in the field of tourism - tourism services. Enhance the role and effectiveness of state management of tourism to advise party committees and local authorities to develop long-term and short-term plans and orient investment projects to develop tourism products in accordance with actual local conditions; Developing a project on assignment and decentralization of state management of tourism between the industry and localities, ensuring synchronization and unity, avoiding overlap or loose management.

To carry out socialization of tourism development, encouraging all economic sectors to participate in tourism activities in different forms. Attracting investors with financial capacity and experience in tourism management to create breakthrough tourism infrastructure, attract new projects to build high-class conference and seminar centers with Large scale from 1000 -1200 seats, professionally operated, closed tourism product service chain to meet national and international conferences;

7. To improve state management efficiency; Completing mechanisms and policies for tourism development

To create a strong change in the awareness of all levels, sectors and businesses about the requirements for tourism economic development. Each industry, each level, and each unit, based on their assigned functions, tasks, and powers, must have specific plans and solutions to impact, support the development of tourism - tourism services, from which tourism - tourism services have an impact on other economic sectors to develop.

To build a synchronous coordination mechanism between the tourism industry and functional sectors in the field of tourism and service management to both create favorable conditions for business activities, while preventing and strictly handling violations to create a healthy business environment. Enhancing the sense of responsibility and build a culture of communication, demonstrating friendliness to tourists of staff in the fields of customs, police, ports, and tourist transport vehicles... Implementing the policy of propaganda, reminders, and guidance is key.

8. Sustainable tourism development is associated with ensuring national defense and security and social order and safety

To strengthen state management of tourism, tourism services, and price management to make the business environment healthier. Mobilizing people to build a civilized urban lifestyle and manage social objects well. Implementing synchronously propaganda solutions and guide people and business households to comply well with State regulations in tourism business. Tourism activities that have negative impacts on the environment, national security and social order and safety are strictly prohibited.

Based on long-term forecasts of tourism industry development in the integration trend, it is necessary to adequately allocate funds for the tourism industry to plan new tourist areas and destinations to call for investment in developing new products and organize competitions to improve the quality of tourism services and train human resources in English, French, Japanese, Korean... to meet the potential tourist market. Proactive and ready to welcome international delegations while ensuring national security and defense; Strictly manage and absolutely do not let foreign guides bring foreign tourists to Long An and guides do not directly cooperate with domestic travel companies to limit risks due to lack of information about local historical culture.

9. International cooperation meeting to develop the tourism industry commensurating with potential

In the current and future trend of international integration, Long An province's border gates are increasingly welcoming more and more international tourists to visit and relax. This is valuable for the rapid and sustainable development of Long An's tourism industry; However, the provincial authorities also need to be vigilant and improve their professional skills to promptly detect social evils and drugs creeping into the locality that will affect the tourism environment and national safety and security.

In parallel with implementing the program to link tourism development in the Southwest region with the Southeast region; Linking with neighboring localities to form tourism development axes for Long An - Ho Chi Minh City; Long An - Can Tho; Long An - Vung Tau ; Long An - Lam Dong aims to create tourism regional links in the Southern provinces and Central Highlands; Building and implementing association programs with international travel agencies, gradually forming international tours to Thailand - Laos - Cambodia and other countries. 

Long An is a locality located in the Mekong River basin, where tourism is expanded by countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion and international organizations are interested in supporting as a positive approach to creating livelihoods and enhancing income for the community, Long An tourism will have the opportunity to have inter-regional cooperation with countries in the Mekong Subregion to develop tourist routes and investment support. That is why international cooperation in general and cooperation with countries in the Mekong Subregion, first of all Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos, is very important. Cooperation can be in many fields such as route development, tourist attractions, image promotion, regional information exchange, market exploitation, training and human resource development in the coming years./.

Exploiting the value of cultural and natural heritage is an effective solution to develop green tourism in Long An. Preserving and exploiting this heritage not only helps generate income for local communities but also contributes to environmental protection and promotes awareness of sustainable conservation. Cooperation between local authorities, tourism businesses and local communities is an important factor to promote green tourism development in Long An. Through utilizing and protecting cultural and natural heritage, Long An will become an attractive destination for domestic and foreign tourists contributing to the sustainable development of the locality now and in the future.

Dr. Tran Ngoc Uyen - Deputy Director of Long An Department of Foreign Affairs

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