Muong Khuong and Bat Xat districts in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai boast high potential for tourism development alongside popular destinations like Sa Pa town and the Bac Ha market.
The districts are endowed with striking natural scenes and rich cultures suitable for developing eco-tourism and community-based tourism.
Sitting in the northeast part of Lao Cai, Muong Khuong is home to 16 caves scattered across 15 communes and towns, including Ham Rong, Ta Lam, Nam Ooc and Seo Tung caves.
The People’s Committee of Muong Khuong district has set aside VND34.4 billion (US$1.67 million) to restore and upgrade local heritage sites between 2011 and 2015.
The district has been upgrading clusters of caves and building more traditional craft and cultural villages such as brocade weaving villages in Sa Pa, Coc Ngu, Na An and Di Thang.
Along highway 4E connecting Muong Khuong and Si Ma Cai – dubbed the sleeping princess in Bac Ha district – visitors can pop into cultural villages such as Sin Cheng, Can Cau and Bac Ha.
Vice Chairman of the district’s People’s Committee Pham Ba Uyen said the five-year tourism development project is intended to move a number of workers in agriculture production to trade and services sectors in order to preserve and promote the traditional cultures of ethnic groups.
Located in the southwest part of Lao Cai, Bat Xat district is famous for its Y Ty primary forest and A Mu Sung Mountain.
Tourists can take a nearly 150-kilometre journey by car or motorbike to visit Sa Pa and Bat Xat towns or Y Ty and Muong Hum communes and explore the stunning landscapes and vibrant cultural lifestyle of ethnic minority people such as Giay, Dao, Mong and Ha Nhi.
To tap the tourism potential, Bat Xat district has been launching tours, building community-based cultural sites such as Lung Lo, Lao Chai, Den Sang, Muong Hum and Ban Xeo, each featuring the unique culture of different ethnic groups and becoming a must-see destination for foreign visitors.
Authorities have also built a development strategy to create a new tourism image in the district, including better management of tourism services and opening training courses for tourism staff.
They also encouraged the involvement of businesses and families while activating promotion programmes and building infrastructure systems to develop community-based tourism, said Chairman of the local People’s Committee Bui Huu Loi.
According to the local Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Lao Cai welcomed over 1 million visitors in the first six months of 2015, a year-on-year rise of 15%.
The tourism sector garnered nearly VND2.3 trillion (US$103 billion) in revenue in the period, a yearly increase of 15%.
Sa Pa, Bac Ha, Bat Xat and Muong Khuong are the most popular destinations with 20%-30% growth in the volume of visitors.