The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why I'm Not Supporting This Week's Tourism Festival

Later in the week is Binh Thuan's annual tourism festival. It's a good idea in theory. It marks the date of one of Phan Thiet's numerous conflicting administrative "founding" anniversaries (110 years), as well as the date when tourists first flocked to Mui Ne 13 years ago to see the solar eclipse--and the resort destination was discovered. It also marks the beginning of busy season. But the problem is the local government's very poor execution of this idea.

The most obvious reason why I'm not supporting the festival is simply because I haven't been asked to. I routinely (as evidenced by a quick glance through the front page of, highlight all the local festivals of my own initiative, but because this tourism festival is contrived entirely by the local government (and has no particular cultural merit), it's rather difficult to even to cover it, since the government typically doesn't release any information until the last minute.

Secondly, the idea that this festival has anything at all to do with tourism seems highly questionable. There are numerous signs--all in Vietnamese (but not English) posted around Phan Thiet as of last night--but only a couple of signs in Mui Ne--and these all in Vietnamese (NOT English)--and as of this evening, they only appear in front of government-owned or affiliated resorts. Other than through, non-English-speaking tourists would never hear about the festival. Local bar and restaurant owners, and most hotel staff know absolutely nothing of the event either.

One has to ask why nothing is being printed in English--and why there is no publicity in Mui Ne itself. The answer might come from numerous complaints I received during previous festivals--namely that some locals and tourists were pushed out of events in order to make room for party (government) officials and VIPs from Saigon. This seems like just a way to wine and dine VIPs. That is no way to boost tourism. There's no evidence in fact that this festival has any effect whatsoever on tourism--nor that is helps the local economy in any way.

If the local government changes its approach and makes some obvious changes to actually market this festival to it's alleged target--TOURISTS--then I'll be happy to cover it. But at this time I have no plans to cover the event in any way or post schedules.

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