PHOTO: Some are asking if tourism in Sapa is growing too fast. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Tourism in Vietnam is taking off and it makes sense that everyone not only wants to get there — but they also want to get in on the boom. It is for many the road less traveled but for how long?
The Bangkok Post recently reported that one of Vietnam’s most popular attractions could be derailed by a flood of tourists.
“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,” the paper says.
Known as the “Tonkinese Alps” the boom in visitors has many in the observers concerned.
"If more and more building (happens), then one day we will lose Sapa, we won't have any more mountain," guide Giang Thi Lang, from the Black Hmong ethnic group tells the Bangkok Post.
But it may be too late.
“In Sapa town, where heaps of rubble mark hotel sites under construction, the number of rooms has surged from 2,500 in 2010 to 4,000 last year, according to official figures,” reports the Post.
Visitor numbers are snowballing in the region and a new cable car, which is said to be the longest in the world, is driving even more tourism.
"It's good for Sapa when they can attract more tourists... and we have a big number of the local people that can find jobs," Nguyen Van Manh, deputy director of Sapa's Tourist Information Center, tells the Post, adding that the sector provided employment to thousands.
But some locals disagree.
"Before the cable car, there were more porters from the village with regular work," said Hmong trekking guide Ma A Tro from Fansipan's summit, where he had just led a two-day trip.
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The growth has also led to construction at the top of the mountain, which some say detracts from its beauty.
"I imagined I would come to the top and it would be really natural, but it's developed here, so for me it's a bit disappointing," said trekker Duong Hoang Minh, who hiked to the top of the 10,311-foot peak.
But it’s a complex issue. Hoang Minh also noted that the cable car gives many more people access to the beauty of the mountain.
Will the boom in tourism take away from Sapa’s beauty? Read on for more on Vietnam’s development here.