Hue is well known as a historical and cultural heritage destination where tourists learn about the traditional values ​​of ancient Vietnamese dynasties. Recently, the tourism industry of Thua Thien Hue province has a plan to innovate and build a more classy heritage tourism brand based on two high-cultural-heritage local products: Ao dai and cuisine of Hue, and at the same time, apply technology into tourist experiences. So, how is Hue doing to upgrade its destination image and bring past and present values ​​into tourism experiences?

Destination Review had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Nguyen Van Phuc, Deputy Director of the Department of Tourism of Thua Thien Hue, about the orientation of renovating the destination image of the ancient capital and the expectations for this orientation.

In the period of 2020 – 2021, not only Thua Thien Hue but all other localities witnessed the freeze of tourism. However, the hiatus of the tourism industry does not mean that we sit still and wait. This is considered an opportunity to have some new directions for the gradual recovery of the tourism industry in the coming time.

Hue has always been famous as a destination of cultural heritage. The upcoming development orientation will be built more carefully, conveying more specifically the cultural heritage values ​​of Hue. In addition to the tangible heritage of ancient architectures, the intangible heritage of Hue royal court music and “Ca Huế”, Hue also has two outstanding cultural values that are well-known to many people: cuisine and ao dai Hue. In the upcoming orientation, Hue tourism wants to promote and define more clearly two tourism brands: Hue – Capital of Culinary and Hue – Capital of Ao dai, through the new brands to increase the attractiveness of the provincial tourism.

The overall goal is that by 2025, Thua Thien Hue will become a unique tourism center of the country, a typical Festival city of Vietnam, ASEAN City of Culture, ASEAN Clean Tourist City, ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable City and won the title of Cultural Creative City. Regarding tourists, the province has set a goal of reaching 6 million tourists to Hue, about 40% – 50% of them are international, with an average stay of over 2 days. Total revenue from tourism is set to reach 13 trillion VND.

The key aspects of the upcoming development strategy for Hue destination image are Cuisine, Ao Dai, People and Service upgrade.

Regarding cuisine, provincial leaders assigned the Department of Tourism to coordinate with other units to develop a series of projects to preserve and promote the value of Hue cuisine with many strategic activities. For example, building and completing the brand identity “Hue – Capital of Culinary”, introducing and promoting to domestic and foreign tourists about the quintessential values ​​of Hue cuisine professionally. Or the compilation of the Encyclopedia of Hue Cuisine (conducted by the branch of Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies in Hue city) helps tourists and the public access the characteristics of Hue cuisine, such as ingredients, spices, processing methods, decorative arts, manners, ideological values, royal and folk elements. In addition to the print version, the editorial board is expected to have a digital version with detailed information, more diverse format of content such as videos, interviews with artisans and chefs, supporting for connecting with other fields. The digital version is intended for both tourists, the community, people working in the tourism industry and experts in tourism research and development.

Another notable activity is the project of Vietnam Culinary Museum in Hue proposed to the province by Vietravel Holdings. This is expected to be the place to introduce pictures and documents about the history of Hue culinary culture, introduce Hue’s past and present dishes. In addition, there are spaces to introduce ingredients, to guide tourists to prepare and enjoy the food, and restaurant space for tourists to enjoy after visiting.

Besides, to help tourists better understand the ingredients used to process Hue cuisine, the province has a project to build and restore food ingredients farming areas. Many dishes are now almost lost due to processing methods or historical contexts made the ingredients farming areas lost, but with this project, some areas, even some ingredients originating from other localities, will be restored or cultivated. The introduction of ingredients farming areas not only promotes some Hue’s areas and agricultural products but also connects tourists to neighboring localities. These ingredients areas, in addition to the role of farming, are also landscaped for tourists to take photos and check in.

Regarding the orientation of building the Hue – Capital of Ao dai brand, the province is developing a project with the main tasks to build Hue into the capital of Ao dai such as: Researching, collecting, building a database of Ao dai Hue; Developing programs, activities, videos, clips and conducting promotion and communication of Ao dai Hue; Organizing the annual Ao dai Hue Festival, make it become a unique cultural product of Hue; Creating and managing the certification of “Hue – Capital of Ao dai”. The most important goal is to preserve and introduce the value of traditional Ao dai Hue and at the same time popularize Ao dai in daily lives. Currently, Ao dai Hue is used in some traditional activities, festivals and events. In order to encourage the community, especially young people, to wear Ao dai more often, it is necessary to make some adjustments in design or materials to suit different types of activities or climatic conditions. In addition, the project also encourages popularizing Ao dai for men and designing Ao dai for a wide range of ages and audiences such as tourists and the community. On the occasion of the celebration, there are activities to promote the popularization of Ao dai, such as free tickets to visit monuments for tourists who wear Ao dai.

Ao dai as well as festivals associated with it are typical images of Hue, so an important point in the Capital of Ao dai branding project is to organizing the annual Ao dai Hue Festival, make it become a unique cultural product of Hue. This will be a special occasion each year attracting tourists and the community, especially those in the fashion and garment industry, who come to Hue to share, exchange and introduce their Ao dai products.

The province is also having a project to build an exhibition space for the history of Ao dai Hue and is looking for investors to deploy. This space is expected to have spaces such as Ao dai museum, space to try on Ao dai, buy Ao dai, and space for local Ao dai tailor shops to introduce and sell products.

The popularization of Ao dai in daily life as well as creating space for Ao dai tailor shops to promote products will help Hue’s garment industry develop, create jobs for local people and stimulate related fields to develop such as making conical hats and wooden clogs fields, embroidered shoes.

The Human aspect is the soul of Hue tourism industry, each Hue citizen is a guide, a tourism ambassador, so it is necessary to increase knowledge and sense of tourism for people. The province is designing curriculums to introduce Hue’s culture and unique values ​​for middle school and high school students, from that creating a knowledge foundation for teenagers, arousing their passion for learning about Hue’s heritage.

Moreover, the province also has propaganda and promotion programs to raise the awareness of people and other industries about tourism-related activities. Because the tourism industry connects with other industries, everyone needs to have a proper understanding to provide quality products for the tourism industry, such as the origin of food ingredients or materials for other tourism products like handicrafts. Besides, the understanding of the tourism industry will help other industries take care of their products.

Another focus is Service upgrade to orient Hue to become a destination with high-class tourism products. Hue is often known as a destination with affordable travel services. In order to improve the level and quality of services, businesses must refine and invest more to raise standards and create attractiveness for tourists.

Furthermore, the province also calls for investors and big brands to invest in high-class services in Hue such as hotels and resorts, and at the same time, invites consultants to build products that both integrate Hue’s unique values and show the high-class of the service.

Besides high-class tourism products, accommodation facilities in Hue must also show the aesthetics and quintessence of Hue people. At present, most accommodation facilities in Hue are small. Through the recent epidemic waves, high-class hotels have reduced their prices a lot to attract tourists, if smaller accommodation facilities, from 3 stars or less, reduce their prices to compete, they will hardly survive. Therefore, Hue tourism industry is encouraging businesses or individuals to invest in aestheticizing accommodation facilities in the direction of boutique hotels, small in scale but with high aesthetic, well-designed in the interior, exterior and services associated with uniquenesses and specific traits of Hue, so that, accommodation facilities can set their price higher in accordance with its service. There are already some hotels in Hue converted successfully.

Hue tourism has researched and developed forms of smart tourism experiences, such as bicycles with automatic audio guides and navigation systems that help tourists use bicycles as a means of transport, and listen to the introduction of attractions in Hue. Due to the epidemic situation, this smart bike has only been tested in Phuoc Tich ancient village and in the Imperial city. It is expected that when the smart bicycles are widely deployed, Hue will expand in the form of shared bicycles, build some bicycle stations that allow tourists to register on the app and choose a vehicle to use and experience on their own. In addition, Hue also built a route for walking and cycling on both sides of the Huong River, from Truong Tien Bridge to Thien Mu Pagoda on the north bank and from Truong Tien Bridge to Con Da Vien on the south bank. This is a very beautiful walking and cycling route with historical works and monuments along the way for tourists to stop and explore.

Recently, the province also invited some investors to develop products that apply technology in tourism such as automatic interpretation system in 6 languages at monuments; Experience 3D images, virtual reality of the work and ancient palace spaces reconstructed. The province had the idea of ​​making virtual tourism on many media channels such as website, YouTube, Fanpage Facebook, and Instagram, in order to help tourists have an initial image of the attractions they want to visit. Technology can connect the present and the past because when experiencing the actual images reconstructed in 3D or virtual reality, tourists can visualize the images of ancient palaces and temples, the activities in the past such as the throne room, the festival, or the daily life of the people.

In addition, Hue also has the idea of ​​developing ways to chat and consult online for tourists on the website or fan page in two ways: tourism staff advise tourists, or to design a chatbot that automatically responds to tourists by text or voice. Tourists not only can inquire about tourist information, but also can ask about transportation to attractions, or upcoming weather forecasts. The information is prepared in many common languages, targeting potential markets.

Hue will not completely change its image but will strengthen and upgrade our brand based on the foundation of being a heritage destination for many years. Therefore, we expect tourists when hearing about Hue will associate it with the values ​​of heritage, ancient architecture, cuisine, Ao dai, besides the landscape and people of Hue. All these values ​​are preserved and promoted in harmony, from the past to present but still integrating with the international. For example, with cuisine, the Hue tourism industry not only preserves and introduces traditional dishes but also encourages to process Hue dishes with traditional flavors in more contemporary and creative styles, which is called fusion in the culinary industry. Thereby, it is possible to encourage tourists or young people to enjoy more traditional dishes.

Most importantly, we hope that with our high-quality services, tourists can enjoy their trip in Hue with all their five senses, and look forward to returning to Hue many times to fully experience it.

 

Thank you so much for your sharing!

#DestinationStory is a series narrating the stories behind the developing gallops of tourism destinations around the world.

Hue: past and present – the harmonious interference of heritage and technology

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