The central coastal region has not capitalised on its natural advantages to foster tourism, officials admitted at a meeting held in the region this week.
Marine and cultural tourism were great strengths of the six provinces — Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, and Khanh Hoa — and Da Nang city but they have failed to develop them, they told a seminar organised by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Phu Yen Province.
Ninh Thuan, for instance has Ca Na and Ninh Chu, rated as two of the country's nine best beaches; Vinh Hy, one of the country's most beautiful bays; Nui Chua National Park; and Bau Truc, the most ancient Cham pottery village in Indochina.
But the province attracts less than 700,000 tourists a year.
"When Phu Yen held the opening ceremony of National Tourism Year [earlier this year], many tourists wanted to go on a sightseeing tour around the province's islands," Truong Nam Thang, director of OSC-SMI Travel Company, said.
"But they could not because the province has no seagoing vessel tourism."
The central region is home to world-famous cultural heritages recognised by UNESCO like Hue Royal Court Music, Hoi An Town, and the My Son relics.
But Dr Tran Duc Anh Son of the Viet Nam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies based in Hue, said the region did not know how to use the potential.
Other delegates said tourism here was weak and deprived in every aspect — infrastructure, advertising, human resources, and awareness among travellers.
At the famous Da Dia whirlpool in Phu Yen, there is no place for visitors to stop or shelter from the sun.
Bai Mon beach and Cape Mui Dien (Phu Yen), the first places on the mainland to see the sun rise, remain neglected after a project to develop them was delayed.
Khanh Hoa Province, which earns VND1.9 trillion (US$90.5 million) a year from tourism, mostly in Nha Trang, wants to exploit the tourism potential to the north of Cam Ranh peninsula.
But the 33 investment projects it has licensed there have seen no progress.
At less than 2.5 per cent, the region also has the country's lowest proportion of the labour force in the tourism industry.
The seven provinces agreed to co-ordinate to develop tourism by building a coastal road from Thua Thien-Hue to Khanh Hoa, creating a common tourism brand, advertising jointly and linking up their cultural festivals into a common tourism event.