\The Hanoitimes - The capital should tap into its natural resources and cultural and historical heritage, and diversify its unique tourism products and services, said the municipal Culture, Sports and Tourism Department's deputy director Mai Tien Dung at a workshop titled "Tourism Investment Promotion in Hanoi".
"The city has the infrastructure and ability to further develop tourism," he added.
Dung said the city accounted for 30 per cent of the country's total foreign tourists with over 1 million arrivals last year and a projected 1.2 million this year.
Most tourists were from mainland China, South Korea, the US, Japan and European countries.
The capital received 9.2 million arrivals last year while this year, the number is expected to reach 10.6 million, an increase of 11 per cent.
Dung said Hanoi had improved infrastructure and services for tourism development including accommodation, restaurants, shopping centres, entertainment areas and new products.
Statistics from the department showed that the number of accommodation facilities in the city was up to 800 with 17,500 rooms to just 351 facilities with 10,000 rooms in 2002.
Restaurants, bars and cafes had also mushroomed.
"However, many of them are small and don't have parking lots. Hygiene and food safety are also matters of concern at some outlets," he said.
In addition, the capital had 10 big commercial centres, 84 supermarkets and several hundred shops that sold a diverse range of goods.
"Careful studies have led to a large amount of culturally orientated construction," Dung said.
"Hanoi has been the destination of choice for many events and the city needs more investment to improve infrastructure to promote that strength."
He said the city had successfully organised large international and regional events, adding that Ha Noi had huge potential in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) industry.
Nguyen Thanh Tinh, deputy director of the municipal Planning and Investment Department, said the city had a large market with a population of 6.45 million people.
"It has the investment advantage of a young and abundant labour force. 53 per cent of workers in the tourism sector are trained and labour costs are low," Tinh said.
Hanoi has been voted as one of the five most attractive cities for tourism in Asia by Travel and Leisure magazine since 2002.
"The city wants to develop tourism into a key economic sector, becoming a national and regional tourism hub, connecting Vietnamese tourism with ASEAN countries and China," Tinh said.
Tourism businesses agreed that Hanoi had a lot of potential, but lacked a complete tourism package.
Doan Thi Thanh Tra, head of the Sai Gon Tourist Company's marketing department, said the city had not offered products customers were interested in.
"No surveys have been held to find out what tourists actually want to experience in the capital," Tra said.
She added that Hanoi had the advantage of being able to link tourism sites with neighbouring provinces as well as unique trade villages and pagodas.
Tra argued that the city had not advertised or marketed tour packages well, leaving tourists to plan their own trips.
"Poor quality services and a shortage of hotels, as well as a lack of tourist information have also contributed to the slow development of the sector." She suggested that the city should overcome its shortcomings by carefully studying visitors' demands to provide unique products.
"Travelling is an experience and visitors want to make new discoveries."
Nguyen Thu Xinh, general director of the Ha Noi-based Dai Hoa Tourism and Commerce Company, added that people had not acknowledged the sector's importance to the country's development.
"Poor infrastructure and human resources combined with pricing issues are the main reasons for the problem," Xinh said.
Department deputy director Mai Tien Dung said the city should promote investment in infrastructure and building unique and attractive tourism services.
Advertising and promotional campaigns should also be enhanced and more professional, he said, adding that the city should accelerate tourism planning by 2020 with a vision to 2050 with details of tourism sites.
"Tourism development and environmental protection should always come together in combination with the improvement of human resources in the sector," he said, adding that the city had made investment policies to attract investors with assistance services, the one-door mechanism and simplified licensing procedures.
Head representative of the Indian Clark Group Ravi Kumar said the country should open direct flights between India and Viet Nam to promote investment in the two countries' tourism industries.
"India has been paying attention to new tourism destinations in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia," Dung said.
The municipal Culture, Sports and Tourism Department is going to focus on developing ecological tours using green travel with 12 electric cars in the Old Quarter and around Hoan Kiem Lake.
In addition, tours on the Red River, ecotourism in Ba Vi and community-based tours will also be enhanced.