Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has requested a three-month delay on the implementation of a plan to develop a tourist area on the Son Tra Peninsula in the central city of Da Nang, temporarily ending months of debate around the controversial zoning.
The plan needs to be put on hold for three months, Dam said at a meeting with the tourism ministry and Da Nang authorities on Sunday, following his first-hand examination of the peninsula.
The zoning in question was approved by the Vietnamese prime minister in November 2016, with the aim of developing a national tourism zone on Son Tra with a total accommodation capacity of 1,600 rooms by 2030.
Shortly after the plan was announced, the Da Nang Tourism Association petitioned the planning to be adjusted in a way that no more hotel rooms would be allowed on the peninsula, in a bid to protect its forests and ecosystem.
The existing accommodations on Son Tra have a combined total of 300 rooms and the Da Nang Tourism Association insisted that this number be maintained during the development of the planned tourism zone.
Complicating the matter is the fact that prior to the premier-approved planning, Da Nang authorities had already green-lighted 25 different tourism projects which would add a further 5,000 hotel rooms on Son Tra.
Already proving a difficult issue to reduce the pre-approved 5,000 rooms to 1,600 in order to stay in line with government planning, to keep the number at 300, as petitioned by the tourism association, is an even more arduous challenge.
1,600 or 300 rooms?
Stakeholders in the project from the tourism ministry and Da Nang authorities to the Da Nang Tourism Association, as well as experts and environmentalists, have been embroiled in heated debate over the plan for the last few months.
During the three-month pause requested by Deputy PM Dam, the tourism ministry is expected to look for “a scientific answer” to the petition of the Da Nang tourism association through conferences and seminars.
Da Nang authorities are expected to eview all tourism projects on the peninsula during this time, according to the deputy premier.
Deputy PM Dam underlined that Da Nang must make it clear that whether they accept or reject the proposal to restrict the number of hotel rooms on Son Tra to 300.
“In other words, the Da Nang administration has to confirm if they agree to reduce the number of approved hotel rooms on Son Tra, and how many rooms will be cut,” Dam said at Sunday’s meeting.
The deputy premier said he acknowledged that Da Nang needs time to do this, but urged the central city’s administration to meet with developers of those tourism projects and settle everything.
However, it appears that Da Nang is unlikely to support the petition of the municipal tourism association.
Addressing the deputy premier’s request, Da Nang's deputy chairman Nguyen Ngoc Tuan said the central city is currently targeting 15 million tourists a year by 2030, meaning accommodation facilities must reach a combined total of 58,000 hotel rooms.
“This means that in the next few years Da Nang requires more accommodation establishments,” he said.
Tuan added, however, that the 1,600 rooms as stipulated by the government are “suitable.”
Son Tra Peninsula is home to a rare native species of primates called red-shanked doucs, which are known locally as ‘the queen of all primates’, given their extravagant appearance.
Several approved tourism projects have resulted in severe deforestation on the peninsula that continues to threaten the population of these endangered animals.