Hoi An Suffering of disaffection of Western Visitors

Vietnam, Hoi An, culture

Hoi An tourism over-commercialisation starts to have a rippled effect on tourist arrivals. Although the UNESCO World Heritage City in Central Vietnam continues to attract more tourists, local authorities witness a decline in arrivals from Western countries and particularly Europe.

The evolution of tourist arrivals to Hoi An -since its inception into UNESCO World Heritage List- created miracles for the small town in Central Vietnam. In the year of its inscription by the UNESCO, Hoi An was receiving 160,314 domestic and international visitors. A decade later, Hoi An passed for the first time the million domestic and international travellers. Total visitors now is around 4.5 million, including 2.8 million international travellers. More than two million travellers already visited Quang Nam province in the first six months of this year.

This of course has been putting pressure on the city which has a population of less than 100,000 inhabitants, although tourism is still perceived as a positive factor by local residents. A survey published in 2017 in the International Journal of Tourism Sciences indicates that residents largely saw positive impacts of tourism on an economic and socio-cultural scale but not on the environment.

Despite having implemented a year ago a US$6 fee to enter the historical town, the city is often crowded with hordes of visitors invading the narrow streets of the town and looking often for the same kind of attractions – handicraft workshops, craft and food markets, cheap souvenirs and food.

A couple of days ago, the Chairman of Quang Nam Tourism Association, Vo Van Van, complaint that the city was witnessing a reduction in the number of European and North American visitors. He then explained it partly to the fact that the quality of local tourist products, especially services, did not match expectation.

Vice Chairman of Hoi An People’s Committee Nguyen Van Son said based on objective assessment of factors that affect the number of visitors, the city decided to focus on tourism products that would highlight local traditional culture, nature in relation with communities living in the city and surroundings.

Surveys already point that tours associated with agricultural production, handicraft villages, eco-tourism, community-based tours and sea sports are favoured by European visitors. While historical heritage sites such as Hoi An urban structure and My Son sacred sites with their old Champa temples are already classical elements of any tours. Part of tours is also the Cu Lao Cham bio reserve,  However, local eco- and community-based tourism products remain still largely untapped.

Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Dinh Van Thu stressed that local agencies and administrations should constantly renew their tourism products along with enhancing service quality. Local communities should then receive more attention from tourism stakeholders, with some inside villages being promoted as “local ambassador”.

In addition, the province plans to expand international cooperation to promote its tourism in the world, with focus on major markets such as Europe, North America, Japan, South Korea, India and the ASEAN.