Duong Lam Hanoi Commune a ‘sleeping beauty’
Duong Lam Commune in Son Tay Township of Ha Noi is not well known as a tourist destination, despite having hundreds of well preserved ancient houses and 16 historic relics - of which seven are recognised as national historic monuments.
Duong Lam Commune was having trouble attracting tourists because of poor promotion and lack of services, said Pham Hung Son, head of the Management Board of Duong Lam Ancient Village.
The commune is home to over 900 old houses, 57 of which are more than 200 years old. But it is still a "sleeping beauty", according to Son.
The board has organised training courses on tourism services, instructing 10 tourist guides and 10 owners of ancient houses on how to communicate with tourists. However, these tourist guides only accompany groups of tourists, while those who travel alone have no guide.
Residents say they also lack the skills needed to run a tourist enterprise successfully.
"Many visitors complain that when they visit ancient houses, the owners ask them to give money for the ancestral altar," said Son.
Ha Nguyen Huyen, owner of a 200-year-old house in Duong Lam Village, said that many residents of the village still do not know how to do business properly.
"Local authorities keep encouraging us to foster tourism in the village, but we have never been in the industry before. We cannot do it without instructions and training," said Huyen.
Son said that the number of visitors to the village has been decreasing recently. Last year, the average number of visitors to the commune every day was about 300 people, but now it is only about 40 people per day.
"Although the board has boosted advertising activities and co-operation with tourism companies, the situation has not improved," said Son.
Meanwhile, Hoi An City in Quang Nam Province - considered one of the top destinations in Viet Nam and also a preserved ancient town - regularly attracts 800 visitors a day, according to statistics supplied by the Department of Trade and Commerce in the city.
Besides various tourism services and activities, residents of the city are encouraged to attract visitors with their hospitality.
"Visitors can come and have a look in our stores, even if they don’t buy anything they will receive a friendly and warm attitude from us," said Nguyen Thu Thuy, owner of a fabric shop in Hoi An City.
Nguyen Van Lanh, head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Hoi An City, said that the city’s tourism sector was fully aware that fostering tourism is based on human factors.
"Since 1993 the city has waged campaigns to encourage residents, especially those involved in the tourism sector, to develop a civilised attitude as an important skill toward attracting visitors," said Lanh.
The Duong Lam Village management board has so far failed to encourage local residents to embrace such a scheme.
"We can still make ends meet whether tourism is developed or not," said Huyen.
In February, the board started selling tickets to visitors to Duong Lam, which, according to Son, was to finance the preservation and restoration of ancient houses in the village. But, owners say, they have yet to receive a cent.
"The management board promised that owners of ancient houses would receive part of the profits, but until now we have received nothing," said Huyen.
Every day, families in the village who own ancient homes have to prepare drinks and clean their houses to welcome tourists. But they have not yet been paid.
"In the long term, we residents cannot continue this without being paid. Authorities should consider us if they want to develop tourism in the area," Huyen said.
(Source: Viet Nam News, URL:http://english.vietnamnet.vn/travel/2008/10/809433/)
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