The record rise in springtime visitors to the south-central province of Phu Yen has been attributed by many to a Vietnamese film released late last year.
Disappointingly however, not a lot has been done to ensure the growth is sustainable.
Statistics by the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Phu Yen have revealed an amazing 35-percent increase in tourist arrivals during and around the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, compared to the same period last year.
The resounding success of the acclaimed movie, ‘Toi Thay Hoa Vang Tren Co Xanh’ (Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass), by expat director Victor Vu is believed by many to be behind the surge.
The film, which hit local screens in late September 2015, has received critical acclaim, not only for its story of childhood innocence, but also for its cinematography, featuring tranquil landscapes from lesser-known scenic spots across the province.
The scenes, selected as the film’s main setting, work to accentuate its storyline on puppy love and sibling rivalry between two boys who vie for the attention of an adorable little girl, recalling fond childhood memories among viewers.
New fees, few conveniences
Tourism authorities and workers in Phu Yen have wasted no time making use of the film’s images in order to lure visitors to the tourist attractions throughout Phu Yen, yet in quite a negative way.
On the way to Bai Xep, a pristine beach secluded in Tuy An District, which was among the film’s settings, now stands a conspicuous road sign featuring the words “Scenes in ‘Toi Thay Hoa Vang Tren Co Xanh’ were shot here.”
Visitors to two of the province’s most loved sites, Da Dia Rapids, a national scenic spot in Tuy An District, Bai Tien (Fairy Beach) and Mui Dien in Tuy Hoa District, have been charged a fee of VND10,000 (US$0.4) since January 1, 2016.
The new fees, which are not offset by conveniences, have come as a disappointment to many holidaymakers.
The only benefit from the fee collection at Da Dia Rapids is the use of cement railings erected along steps leading down to the site.
Wooden stalls with glass panels where non-typical souvenirs are displayed for sale have also marred the site’s allure to a certain extent.
Bai Tien and Mui Dien fare better with the absence of such stalls or man-made structures, but the beach and the strip, home to a lighthouse and one of the first places to welcome sunshine in the country’s easternmost tip, offer vacationers, particularly young trekkers, few delights.
Phu Yen Province hosted the 17th Vietnam Film Festival in 2011 in a bid to promote the location and its tourism sector.
The week-long event, which boasted more than ten free-admission flicks as well as a clutch of other cultural activities, failed to draw an influx of tourists as expected.
“Phu Yen is endowed with rich tourism potential, but it remained a sleeping beauty before being pushed into the limelight since the release of the film,” Phong Viet, a local poet, observed.
“Myriad tourism opportunities are ahead. The thing that counts is whether local tourism authorities will be able to make the best of them,” he noted.
Films awaken tourism potential
‘Toi Thay Hoa Vang Tren Co Xanh’ is not an isolated case when it comes to movies’ capacity to promote tourism destinations.
Another example is ‘L'amant’ (The Lover), a noted French film set in Huynh Thuy Le Old House, a national relic and tourist attraction in Sa Dec City, located in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.
Le, the owner of the house, was the first love of Marguerite Duras, the author of an internationally famous eponymous semi-autobiographical 1984 novel, which details a romance between a teenage French girl and a Chinese-Vietnamese man in Sa Dec in 1929.
The novel was adapted into the film in 1992.
The time-honored house as well as some other spots in Sa Dec which also served as the film’s set have become must-see destinations in tours to the province.
Similarly, ‘Indochine’ (Indochina), another 1992 French film set in French colonial Indochina during the 1930s and 1950s, revolves around a French plantation owner and her adopted Vietnamese daughter.
The movie won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 65th Academy Awards in 1993.
Shot mainly in UNESCO-recognized Ha Long Bay in the northern Vietnamese province of Quang Ninh, the movie served as a catalyst in elevating the site to global fame.
‘Chuyen Cua Pao’ (Story of Pao), a locally-awarded film in 2006, also helped bring the northern province of Ha Giang and its fairytale-like landscapes including stone hedges, peach blossoms, flower fields, and elaborate costumes worn by the local ethnic minority women to tourists’ attention.
Pao’s home in Dong Van District, where the film is mainly set, still holds an irresistible appeal to holidaymakers.
The province also boasts UNESCO-recognized Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark.
In another more recent example, ‘Kong: Skull Island’s Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his star-studded Hollywood crew arrived in Hanoi on February 18 in preparation for shooting the second installment of Legendary’s Godzilla-Kong cinematic universe in the northern Vietnam outdoors.
The huge media attention to the film’s production will certainly open up tourism opportunities for the locations used, including Tam Coc-Bich Dong grottos, part of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex in Ninh Binh Province.
The Trang An complex is the country’s first site to be acknowledged as a mixed natural and cultural world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).