Local authorities, though believing that craft villages could be the gold mines for exploitation to develop tourism, have not done anything to take full advantage of the great potentials.
No action taken to turn potentials into reality
According to the Vietnam Craft Village Association, there are over 3000 craft villages throughout the country, including 400 traditional craft villages which make some 200 craft products, many of which have been well-known in the world such as lacquer, embroideries, bamboo made or fine art products.
Hanoi alone possesses 272 craft villages rich in the cultural and historical value, which prove to be the wonderful places to attract visitors.
Dao Thu Vinh, Director of the Hanoi Industry and Trade Department, with the specific characteristics of Vietnamese trade in the past, the craft villages all are located on main transport routes, both waterway or overland. This provides a great advantage for tourism development.
Vinh went on to say that with the geographical positions and the historical values, it would be feasible for travel firms to design the tours which cannot be seen in any other countries in the world.
Hanoi has followed a program on developing craft village tourism for the last 10 years. However, the achievements gained so far remain modest.
Of the 16 tours to craft villages which have been designed so far, only the tour to the Bat Trang pottery village has been exploited in an effective way. Other tours like the ones to Chuong My bamboo-made product village, Quat Dong embroidery, Lang Chuong latania-made hat, or Ha Thai lacquer villages do not have high competitiveness.
The travel firms, which have the designed tours to craft villages, say that craft villages remain unattractive because they do not understand what travelers want to see and do when visiting the villages.
A tour guide has noted that craft villages now only focus on making merchandise products, while they still do not know how make tourism products.
The visitors to the Non Nuoc craft village in Da Nang City, for example, want to buy the jewelry made of natural stones by the craftsmen of the village themselves. However, it is nearly impossible to find the products there, because all the shops in the villages only display China made jewelry.
The craftsmen in the Dong Ky wooden furniture craft village do not think of making the souvenirs with reasonable sizes which can be easily carried by tourists.
“Here in the village, visitors can only see the products made to commercial orders. It’s impossible to find nice souvenirs here,” he said.
Most of the travelers, who choose the tours to craft villages, are those, who have the demand for learning more about the local culture. Meanwhile, the local residents themselves don’t have deep knowledge about the places where they are living. This makes travelers feel boring when arriving in new land areas.
Local authorities to be blamed on unexploited craft villages
Travel firms believe that the great potentials of craft villages for tourism development should be blamed on the local authorities, saying that local authorities have not been aware of the role of craft villages in developing local tourism.
In 2003-2004, Hanoi once spent money to help craft villages develop tourism. However, a lot of items built during that period have been left idle, including trade fair houses or markets.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Diep Kinh Tan said it’s necessary to make a breakthrough to exploit craft villages for tourism development. Tan has suggested putting the craft villages under the management of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism instead of the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.