The southeastern region of Vietnam consists of Ho Chi Minh City and five neighboring provinces of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Dong Nai and Tay Ninh, covering a total area of 23,564 sq. km, approximately 7.11% of the land area of Vietnam. The population of the entire region is about 17.8 million, making up 18.53% of the country’s population, and a population density of 756.6 people per sq. km.
The country’s southeastern region is very rich in natural resources and ideal for the development of tourist activities. These resources have given birth to international routes for passenger transportation like National Highway 22, as part of the Asian Highway border road. There are also other special local tourism products such as exploration of ecosystems in three provinces, a tour from river to sea, and experiencing the rich colorful culture of the region.
In 2019, the southeastern region welcomed 12.4 million international visitors, a 48% year-on-year increase, earning revenue of upto USD 7.1 bn. Though there have been signs of local tourism development, the figures have still been low in comparison with those in nearby countries. Take Bangkok in Thailand for instance, which has a population of about 9 million, and in 2019 the city welcomed almost 25.8 million international visitors generating revenue of USD 20 bn. Singapore has a population of 5.7 million, which in 2019 welcomed 19.1 million international visitors, bringing the island country revenue of upto USD 19.8 bn, which is 2.8 times higher than the total tourism revenue of the whole southeastern area of Vietnam.
Therefore, we can see that the tourism industry may bring in huge revenue if we make appropriate investments and effectively take advantage of green industries. It should be noted that the facilities for tourism development in the southeastern region are still modest despite its strategic location, however there is vast potential in the region with interesting cultural and historic properties, a wide variety of tourism locations and abundant human resources.
For example, some great tourism resources include the beautiful coast of Ba Ria-Vung Tau; the complex historic and cultural relics and attractions of mountains such as Ba, Dinh, Ba Ra and Chua Chan; natural tourism resources with a network of rivers and lakes like the Saigon River, Vam Co Dong River, Dong Nai River, Dau Tieng Reservoir, Tri An Lake, Thac Mo Lake; tourism resources with biosphere reserves like the UNESCO-recognized Can Gio Mangrove Forest; Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve; and a network of national parks including Cat Tien, Con Dao, Bu Gia Map and Lo Go-Xa Mat. These together make the region a rough pearl that needs polishing before it can shine.
Transportation networks an advantage
There are advantages of convenient transportation networks including airlines and airports such as International Tan Son Nhat Airport, Con Son Airport, Bien Hoa Airport and International Long Thanh Airport which is going to be built in the near future. The area has 13 national roads linked to the north-south national road and international routes. These roads can take tourists to urban areas and attractions in the region.
The waterway network connects the East Sea to the southeastern region going through Vung Tau, Saigon River, Soai Rap River, Cai Mep River and Tien River. There are also inter-province waterways that can take visitors to beautiful spots. The national railway system goes from Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Nai and Binh Duong Provinces covering a total length of 110km with 13 stations that meet tourist service standards.
These are comparatively precious advantages of the southeastern region, providing grounds for tourism development if the cities and provinces in the region join hands and focus on key projects that can promote the development of transport infrastructure, human resources and tourism products.
According to a strategy for Vietnam’s tourism development till 2020 with a vision until 2030, the southeastern region plans to concentrate on specific tourism products such as meeting venues, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE); cultural festival tours; seaside tours; weekend tours; sports and shopping tours; and border and border gate tours. Therefore, it is necessary to build a regional tourism brand and provide a variety of activities and features for visitors to enjoy during their visit to each spot, encouraging them to lengthen their stay and increase expenditure. That would contribute to sustainable economic growth and social stability in the region.
Over the next few years, cities and provinces in the southeastern region plan to improve conditions for more tourism by introducing smart tourism services and work more closely together for better joint infrastructure projects. They will also strive to take advantage of significant cultural values, adapt to climate change, protect the environment, improve human resources and promote tourism. Additionally, they will focus on creating attractive tourism products and strong ties among the localities for effective sustainable tourism, as issued under Resolution 08-NQ/TW by the Politburo on 16 January 2017.
All localities need to set aside a substantial budget for activities as specified in the five-year Partnership Agreement and the two-year Implementation Plan. It is essential to call for more investments from private investors and FDIs, while funds from the national budget can go mainly into transport infrastructure projects.