Son La – Northwestern Region Tourism Linkage Created
Son La, part of tourism zone of the Northern Midland and Mountainous Region, is considered one of the provinces with potential and advantages to develop tourism. Located in the transit corridor of the Northwestern areas, Son La has much potential to develop tourism areas. With vast natural advantages in topography, landscape, security, climate, historical system, diverse cultural heritage and the largest hydropower project in Southeast Asia with the cultural characteristics of 12 nations, Son La has the potential to develop tourism, provide travellers with diverse options like traditional craft villages, festivals, culinary excursions, entertainment and weekend tours to hydroelectric reservoir associated with sightseeing, and relaxation that all lay a foundation for Son La to develop attractive tourism products and foster its own identity.
Based on the fundamentals of a developing cluster-oriented tourism system, a tourism centre, travel space, a tourism complex, a developed transport network, and a transportation system, Son La has projected many goals by 2030 including:
– Provincial tourism routes including a main tourism route system and tourism sub-routes.
*Main tourism routes: the tourism routes that connect tourism clusters, tourism centres and important tourism destinations.
– Highway 6 connecting Van Ho, Moc Chau, Son La City and Dien Bien as part of the vital national tourism routes, connecting the Northwest with Hanoi.
– Highway 37 connecting Son La City, Mai Son, Yen Chau, Bac Yen, Phu Yen, Phu Tho and Yen Bai.
– National Highway 279 connecting Son La City, Thuan Chau, Quynh Nhai, Lai Chau and Lao Cai.
– A system of roads from Highway 103 to the foot of the mountain of Chi Day Cave, Yen Son, and Yen Chau.
– Highway Route 4G connecting Son La City, Mai Son, Song Ma, Sop Cop and Dien Bien.
– Provincial Highway 109 connecting It Ong Town, Nghia Lo (Yen Bai) and Highway 32.
– Hoa Binh- Van Yen (Phu Yen) – Ta Hoc (Mai Son) – Son La Hydropower (Muong La) – Quynh Nhai- Muong Lay Town (Dien Bien).
– Muong La – Quynh Nhai Tour
– Quynh Nhai – Muong Lay Town (Dien Bien)
– Ket village tour, Ang village tour (Chieng Lao commune)
*Sub-tourism routes: the system connecting centres with surrounding attractions, including:
– The route connecting Son La with the tourist attractions of the city tourism and its vicinity.
– The route connecting Moc Chau town to tourist attractions of Moc Chau town and its vicinity.
– The route connecting Quynh Nhai town with tourist attractions of Quynh Nhai town and its vicinity.
– The route connecting It Ong town with other tourism clusters of the Muong La town and its vicinity.
Other thematic tourism routes: the thematic tourism routes to develop other tourism routes by topics, including:
– Sightseeing tours to explore caves in the whole province;
– The community routes to connect cultural significance across the province.
– The adventure sport tours to explore the mountainous areas, rivers, and natural conservation area.
– The route connecting Son La City, Hoa Binh, Hanoi and other provinces of the Red River Delta and North East Coast to attract the tourists from Hanoi and other areas to travel to So La on Highway 6 and Highway 5.
– The route connecting Son La City, Dien Bien, Lai Chau and Northern mountainous provinces is the inter-province route including Highway 6, Highway 12, Highway 4D to connect with Lao Cai and Ha Giang.
– The route connecting Son La City, Muong La, Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Ha Noi.
Also, this route can be extended to Cao Bang, Lang Son and northeastern provinces.
– The route connecting Son La City, Hoa Binh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa and other Southern provinces: Highway 6, Highway 12A and the Ho Chi Minh Highway.
International tourism routes: the highways connecting Loong Sap, Chieng Khuong with Laos and other ASEAN countries within the GMS.
Currently, Son La has three main tourism products of 6 major groups: resort, healthcare, entertainment and weekend in the landscape; scenic tourism; cultural tourism, ecotourism, community tourism and spiritual tourism.
The sightseeing tours of Northwestern provinces including Hanoi, Son La and Dien Bien, visits to ethnic villages of Chieng Yen Commune, Van Ho district, Moc Chau Plateau and access to other areas, visits to villages of traditional brocade weaving.
The sightseeing tour to Son La hydropower reservoir area of Son La, Quynh Nhai, Muong La: a visit to historical Son La Prison, King Le Thanh Tong and the community tourism temples, hot mineral springs of the Mong village, the Hua La commune and its vicinity, Son La hydropower plant, Son La hydropower lake, Huoi Quang, community tourism, Pom Min hot bath, Ngoc Chien commune, Muong La district, Pa Uong Bridge and Quy Nhai traditional ethnic festivals.
Spiritual tour among Moc Chau, Yen Chau, Son La city, Quynh Nhai: visits to Son Moc Huong Cave, Chien Vien Temple (Vat Hong) of Moc Chau district, Nha Nhung (Yen Chau district), the Buddhist historic site of Son La, Son La Prison, King Le Thai Tong Temple, Han Temple (Quynh Nhai District).
Besides, Son La has also focused on linking tourism development zone of Song Da Hydropower Reservoir, which is located on the territory of Quynh Nhai district, Thuan Chau, Muong La (Son La); Muong Lay town (Dien Bien); Sin Ho district (Lai Chau province). The Son La hydropower reservoir has a very favourable position connecting provinces of Hoa Binh, Son La, Dien Bien, Lai Chau. The total length of the waterways of the Da River reservoir area connecting Hoa Binh, Son La, Dien Bien and Lai Chau is 430 km. There are hundreds of small islands with charming scenery; river banks have untouched, green, dreamy and charming forests. The pristine climate, along with large water landscapes, islands, peninsulas, narrow wetlands, diverse ethnic culture, and prominent landmarks, has created favourable conditions for tourism development. With its rich natural advantages and diverse landscapes, many tourists who visited here compared the Da River to another Ha Long Bay on the mountain.
Waterway is the most important transportation system in the tourism routes of the Da river to cater for river cruises as well as serve the needs of commuter and freight of lakeside residents. Many ports are formed as Thung Nai Port and Bich Ha Port of Hoa Binh province; Ta Hoc Port of Son La province. By 2020, Son La province will have a plan of building four inland ports and upgrading 25 passenger and cargo terminals, and 104 terminal ports accessing Quynh Nhai, Muong La and Thuan Chau.
The objective of the master plan for tourism development is to make the hydropower reservoirs of Son La a driving force for tourism development in the province and become a national tourist area in the future. The province also focuses on promoting many types of tours like sightseeing tours, ecological tours, community tours, weekend tours; preserving the nation’s cultural identity; contributing to the socio- economic development, eradicating hunger and alleviating poverty, maintaining security, defence, social order and safety.
We can say the Da River has rich tourism resources with plenty of natural scenery, historical culture and human values, creating more diverse tourism products. The province will be a very attractive place for both of domestic and international tourists to promote the river reservoir area.
As of September 2015, the total tourist arrivals in Son La was 1.5 million, of which there were 40,000 international visitors and 1.46 million domestic tourists, leading to the revenue from tourism activities of VND640 billion. This is a remarkable result for the mountainous province with inferior conditions, facilities, and weak transportation infrastructure.
However, besides the achievements, the regional affiliate of Son La is still weak. Tourism products are not competitive and special enough; the province also has limited tourist destinations; tourism human resources are weak and inadequate because of lack of professional training. The province is facing other challenges like complex terrain areas that are heavily dissected by streams and mountains, valleys surrounded by high mountain ranges, the scattered tourist attractions and difficult transportation connection points. Son La has not had transportation systems by air, rail and road that have some influence on attracting major investors, firms, luxury travel companies to Son La; the infrastructure as well as road traffic of the tourism attractions are still under-developed, which draw less attention from investors.
– First, the planning:
The province is drafting the tourism development plan to design tourism products; protect the natural resources and promote the conservation of traditional cultural values; invest in the infrastructure and attract investors to invest in the tourism of each province in particular and the Northwestern area in general.
– Second, investment in infrastructure, material and technical base for tourism areas:
The provinces should increase investment in building the infrastructure such as the electrical systems, roads, ports to facilitate the transportation of tourists to the provinces; exploit the natural resources to build resort zones, cultural and ecological attractions, promote high-quality transport services, especially luxury cruises from1 to 5 stars on the lake, to better serve tourists.
– Third, formulation of tourism products:
The provinces need to join hands with each other to develop the tourism products. Due to the similar tourism potentials, the province should cooperate to develop the tourism products. It is necessary to research the unique nuances of each province to highlight the identity of the province and to avoid the duplication that might bore tourists. The inter-provincial tours on the perennial waterways and roads should be promoted to extend the length of stay of the tourists.
– Fourth, training and development of human resources:
Currently, the tourism human resources trained in Son La and the northwestern provinces that were accounted at a very low rate. It is required to develop training plans for the human resources in short- and long-term, particularly the professional training classes for the tourism management workers at the sites, tourism attractions, as well as transport agencies.
– Fifth, propaganda promotion:
The provinces need to work together to select the special tourism products of each province and the tourism products of the region to jointly introduce the region to domestic and international tourists.
To accomplish these tasks, the province needs the engagement of the central authorities to give direction and form mechanisms and policies for the development of tourism activities; with the alignment of organizations and tourism business units in the process of researching and designing products.