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Mekong Delta farmers attract tourists with ecotourism

2012-02-16 (GMT + 7)

While many tourism hotspots around Vietnam are ripping off foreign tourists and turning them away, a handful of farmers in the Mekong Delta are winning the backpackers’ trust with their gardens designed as an original and interesting ecotourism area.

Only a few of the hundreds of tourists, both foreign and domestic ones, visiting the Ba Duc ancient house at Dong Hoa Hiep Commune, Cai Be District of Tien Giang Province every day know that 12 years ago the house could not hold a visitor’s interest for more than fifteen minutes.

Prior to 2000, Phan Van Duc and his six family members entered into an agreement with the Cai Be travel agency to receive VND2,000 for every tourist the tour organizer brought to his ancient house for an excursion. The ancient-house tour was so boring that few tourists returned to his house for the second time, he said. “I know I could do better on my own, if tourists were to participate in more activities when visiting my house, rather than just going on a mere sightseeing trip.”

In 2000, Duc had his 2.5-hectare orchard transformed into an ecology garden. At the garden center, he dug a pond and raised fish for tourists interested on fishing. To meet the tourists’ lodging needs, he built many rooms around, fully equipped with modern facilities. On top of that, his wife, besides cooking meals for the tourists, began to teach them how to cook local specialties.

At present, Duc welcomes around 100 tourists every day, most of whom are foreign backpackers.

Entrance admission costs VND5,000 each, and fee for a homestay night is US$22 a person, Duc said, adding the money from doing tourism had enabled him to recoup his investment, and begin to reap profits. Duc said he collected feedback from visitors to better his services. “Some foreign tourists have returned three to four times because they are interested in my family’s form of tourism,” he proudly said.

Originality: the most crucial key

Similarly, Le Hoang Vinh of Binh Hoa Phuoc isle, Long Ho District of Vinh Long Province, renovated his 2.2-hectare fish pond into an ecotourism place in 2004. Vinh succeeded in buying and raising some African ostriches, making the ostrich-riding services an original feature on his farm.

He also brought exotic birds and animals to the farm to pique the tourists’ interest.

 “If your garden is just like all other gardens and does not have anything special, visitors will feel bored and leave soon,” Vinh, now CEO of Vinh Sang Co Ltd, concluded. From the initial investment of VND20 billion ($960,000), Vinh is now firmly on the highway to success, with some 300 tourists visiting his Vinh Sang tourism area a day. Vinh said he was considering joining hands with 20 neighboring farmers to expand his tourism model. “We will link with other households on the isle to create a community tourism area, which will benefit all of the residents on the isle,” Vinh shared.

Meanwhile, Huynh Thanh Bach, a farmer in Long My Commune, Long Ho District of Vinh Long Province, chose to make his 4-hectare ecotourism garden stand out from the rest by operating a floating restaurant boat worth more than $1.5 billion. “We need something new, strange, and unique to attract tourists,” Bach said.

Source: Tuoi tre

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