The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, which boasts the high-profile Son Doong Cave, which is the world’s largest, is looking forward to its second recognition by the UNESCO as a world heritage site next month.
The management of the park, secluded in the central Vietnamese province of Quang Binh, is poised to receive a recognition certificate from the United Nations organization for the second time during its third Cave Week, according to Tran Tien Dung, vice chair of the provincial People’s Committee.
The second recognition is based on the park’s stunning biological diversity and resplendent landscape, Dung told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
The park first earned the coveted honor in 2003 for its astounding geological and geomorphologic values.
The aforementioned Cave Week, held on a biennial basis, is slated to run from July 17.
“Quang Binh has seen notable strides since its Phong Nha-Ke Bang park was first honored by the UNESCO in 2003. We are pinning high hopes on the second acknowledgement drawing more foreign tourists to the site,” Dung added.
The deputy chairman is upbeat about the surge in tourist arrivals to the province in recent years.
Compared to only one flight operated by Vietnam Airlines between Ho Chi Minh City and Dong Hoi, which is the heart of Quang Binh Province and near the natural park, every two days previously, the number of flights has now risen to three, which are offered by the carrier and no-frills airlines Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air. Most of the flights are full.
“This is the most incontrovertible proof of Quang Binh’s rising touristy appeal,” Dung noted.
In 2014, the province welcomed 2.8 million tourist arrivals, which had been undreamed of before, he elaborated.
A preliminary report by the provincial Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism revealed that the numbers of domestic tourists and foreign visitors to Quang Binh has increased 1.5 and 3 times respectively so far this year, compared to the same period last year.
Dung attributed the surge in foreign tourists to the irresistible allure of Phong Nha-Ke Bang’s awe-inspiring cave system, particularly Son Doong and En Caves, and the adventure expeditions to these cavernous wonders.
Following the live coverage of the American Broadcasting Company and National Geographic Magazine’s dizzying 360-degree photo essay on Son Doong Cave last month, local travel firms reported a soar in the number of tourists who inquire about expedition tours to the grotto.
Son Doong Cave, the world's largest, as seen in a 360-degree photo by National Geographic Magazine
Visitors find tourism infrastructure in Quang Binh satisfactory, including transport means, roads, hotels, and restaurants, Dung noted.
Domestic tourists and pilgrims also flock to the resting place of legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap, nestled in Vung Chua in the province’s Quang Trach District.
Dung added many residents around Phong Nha have made a considerably better living by raising “ca tram” and selling the fish to tourists, working as porters for expedition tours, and offering homestay services.
Last week, Quang Binh held a reconnaissance trip to Va and Nuoc Nut Caves, in which a Tuoi Tre reporter joined.
The two caves are located inside Phong Nha-Ke Bang Natural Park.
Nguyen Chau A, director of Oxalis Co., which offers expeditions to Phong Nha-Ke Bang, said his firm is waiting for approval by the People’s Committee to offer tours that last two days and one night each to the grottos.
Dung, the deputy chair of the Quang Binh People’s Committee, added his committee will soon grant a permit for Oxalis to operate the new tours during the upcoming Cave Week.
Chau A said the tours are expected to cost around VND9 million (US$413) each.
Members of a reconnaisance team are seen rappelling inside Va Cave.