AFP reports on the pros and cons of tourism development in Vietnam’s Sapa region:
At the top of Vietnam’s Fansipan Mountain, throngs of giddy tourists wielding selfie sticks jostle for a photo op on the once-remote peak in the Sapa region, famed for its breathtaking views across undulating rice terraces.
Getting to the top traditionally takes a two-day trek but these days most visitors opt for a 20-minute ride by cable car instead — the latest flashy tourist attraction to heighten concerns over rapid development destroying Sapa’s natural beauty.
Known by some as the Tonkinese Alps, the former French outpost has seen a tourism boom in recent years with a new highway from the capital and hotels popping up at breakneck pace.
“If more and more building (happens), then one day we will lose Sapa, we won’t have any more mountain,” said guide Giang Thi Lang, from the Black Hmong ethnic group.
Vietnam’s tourism industry has taken off in recent years, especially among domestic visitors with growing appetites and budgets for travel.
The country has also become a draw for foreign visitors turning their backs on better-known Southeast Asian destinations such as Thailand’s Chiang Mai, seeking instead a road less travelled.
But some lament the commercialisation of Vietnamese treasures, with reports of locals complaining about multi-course meals served in Ha Long Bay’s famous caves, or trash-strewn beaches in the resort town of Phu Quoc.