Mekong Delta to Become “Special Tourist Area” by 2020

Measures to realise a master plan for tourism development in the Mekong Delta by 2020, with an extended vision to 2030, were discussed at a conference held in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho, in Southern Vietnam in early April.

The Mekong Delta region includes Can Tho City and 12 provinces – An Giang, Ben Tre, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Dong Thap, Hau Giang, Kien Giang, Soc Trang, Long An, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, and Vinh Long – with a total area of 40,576.6 sq.km

The master plan had been officially approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc last year. It aims to turn the Mekong Delta into a special tourist area  for Vietnam, with the goal of welcoming around 34 million tourists, including 3.5 million foreigners by 2020, and, by 2030, about 52 million visitors, including 6.5 million foreigners. Some 25 million domestic and foreign travellers are currently coming each year.

The region will strive to offer about 53,000 hotel rooms by 2020, some 15% of which will be three- to five-star. The room number is projected to increase to 100,000 by 2030.

Meanwhile, the regional tourism sector is expected to generate jobs for nearly 230,000 workers by 2020, including 77,000 direct jobs. By 2030, the respective figure will be 450,000 and 150,000.

Priority will be given to developing waterway, ecological, and cultural heritage tourism products which are particular to the region. These will be in addition to the mainstays of sea and entertainment tourism, supported by MICE, tours of rural areas, and historical relics.

To welcome such a high number by 2030 will be a real challenge as it will need to balance the fragile ecotourism balance of the Delta – a unique area in Southeast Asia- and the need to offer adequate infrastructure – from transport to accommodation and attractions, not to mention wastage and water treatment.

Worrying signs of the Delta’s worsening environment have multiplied and are now regularly reported by local media. lasting drought in the last few years and consequently a lack of fresh water resources for local people and for traditional activities such as agriculture and fishery-, seem to be a common feature in the region.

Worst: experts see the Delta sinking into the sea. There are four main causes for the subsidence including natural subsidence, tectonic process, pressure from surface constructions and groundwater extraction. The latter activity increased over the past decades due to growing demand for infrastructure and construction.

Statistics from the National Centre for Water Resources Planning and Investigation were presented at a seminar in Can Tho in March. It showed that a total of five million cubic metres of underground water is being extracted each day and it still goes on unabatted.