Tien Giang is located at the gateway of the Mekong Delta region and possesses three ecological regions (alluvial freshwater, mangrove forest and alum-affected Dong Thap Muoi wetland), creating famous specialty orchards. With rich natural resources, ecological environment characterized by rivers and fruit gardens as well as sincere, enthusiastic lifestyle and typical, traditional, cultural activities of residents in the waters-intensive southern region, Tien Giang has attracted both domestic and foreign tourists.
New direction for agricultural product promotion
Agritourism has created products mainly based on agricultural production activities and rural landscapes. In the recent decades, implementing the Tien Giang tourism development plan to 2020 with vision to 2030, Tien Giang province has focused on investing and developing its four main tourist centers namely Cai Be, Thoi Son isle, Tan Thanh beach and Dong Thap Muoi ecological reserve, concentrating on developing key tourist areas with attractive highlights. In particular, on April 5th, 2017, the Provincial Party Committee issued Resolution No.11-NQ/TU on tourism development of Tien Giang province to 2020 with orientation to 2030, followed by the Plan No.118/KH-UBND of the Provincial People‘s Committee implementing the Resolution with the goal of turning the tourism from an important economic sector into a key one in the upcoming years.
According to Mr. Nguyen Van Man, Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, in fact, in Tien Giang, "Agritourism" has existed for a long time, in recent years, implementating the Resolution of the Provincial Party Committee, many agricultural models associated with ecotourism have attracted more attention. Their objectives are both to create jobs and income for local people, and improve the infrastructure, contributing to the successful implementation of the National Target Program on building rural areas of new development. Especially "tourism activities contribute to promoting products and honoring the long-standing cultural values of sectors and craft villages as well as agricultural products in the province" - Mr. Man also shared.
He also said that taking advantage of the potential of a province known as the "kingdom of fruit" with many specialty fruit growing areas and especially farmers being able to produce these fruits such as dragon fruit, durian, pomelo, mango, etc. all year round, creating a great attraction for both domestic and foreign tourists (visitors can go around the gardens, enjoy fresh fruits and buy them, etc.). Especially on hot summer days, relaxing on hammocks hung inside large, cool orchards full of fruits is great!
Besides, according to Mr. Man, many "farmers with big financial resources", when doing agritourism, have always paid attention to improving their tourist sites and orchards, landscape protection and environmental sanitation around their facilities as well as organizing diverse activities for tourists such as: Teaching them how to grow trees, catch fish in ditches, make cakes and cook rustic dishes, for cultural exchange, "don ca tai tu" or "southern amateurs music", etc. Those activities make visitors excited because they can try being "a genuine farmer" even for just a few hours. Many of them think that this is a new, unforgettable experience because they can directly participate in the farming, making some products, etc. It can be said that Tien Giang farmers not only produce things to sell, but also know how to take advantage of their fruit gardens and fish ponds for agritourism. In fact, many people have done it very effectively!
Mr. Vo Pham Tan, Deputy Director of Tien Giang Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that with more than 80,000 hectares of specialty orchards, "agritourism" has been developed in Tien Giang for a long time. Many models of agricultural production associated with tourism have been developed such as Thoi Son Islet of My Tho city - a national tourist area; Dong Hoa Hiep commune of Cai Be district with a highlight of ecotourism combined with visiting ancient houses, recognized as cultural heritages (this commune only welcomes an average of 100,000 visitors a year, 75% of which are foreigners); Tan Phong islet of Cai Lay district with dozens of homestay ecotourism sites, and a number of other localities, etc. contributing to promoting the provincal tourism products and increasing tourist attraction.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2019, Tien Giang welcomed more than 2.1 million visitors, more than 850,000 of whom were international visitors. Direct revenue from tourism businesses was more than VND 1,130 billion. However, the most important result was to promote and improve the sale for local specialty fruits in international markets.
From those results, it is believed that, in the near future, if well organized, the "agritourism" models will also be a form of export, contributing to local socio-economic development, which was again confirmed by Associate Professor, Doctor Nguyen Thi Van Hanh (Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities) at a scientific conference. She said agritourism in general and farmers' letting visitors into their gardens in particular, will help increase the value of agricultural products, and importantly, "visitors from urban areas or developed countries are always curious about and interested in rural areas, and through agritourism, farmers can preserve and develop their production, helping to prevent their leaving rural areas for cities to find jobs. In the context of climate change and difficulties in improving the sale of agricultural products, agritourism is a new direction for doing this.".
Solutions for the upcoming time
Mr. Nguyen Van Man said that in order to step by step develop agriculture in association with tourism, the province has also developed some solutions, such as: mobilizing localities and farmers to establish cooperation groups and cooperatives to participate in the program as focal points in organizing the production, supplying raw materials and trading and promoting products; building a good local tourism environment by enhancing farmers‘ communicative skills with tourists through short training courses, providing local authorities and farmers with basic knowledge and skills in tourism activities (being friendly, hospitable, and respectful to and helping tourists during their tour, etc.); building high-tech production areas having tourist reststops and homestay services; supporting the development of handicraft products under the One Commune One Product Program (OCOP) for the 2017-2020 period, with vision to 2030; building synchronous rural infrastructure to facilitate goods trading between regions and provinces and cities throughout the country, contributing to job creation, increasing income and building rural areas of new development model .
Mr. Vo Pham Tan suggested that in order to develop effective and sustainable agritourism, the provincal authorities should focus on areas with development potential, prevent local people's spontaneous, fragmentary activities, following the crowd; adopt policies to encourage investment from enterprises and farmer households in tourism development in capital support, tax, human resource training, etc.; multiply typical agritourism models in line with the local advantages such as tourism models in crop-growing, traditional craft villages, experiencing homestay at local communities; provide training for tourism human resources, etc./.
Translated by the Department of Foreign Affairs