Food and friendship...
Last year, Bangkok hosted an annual food forum organised by the UN World Tourism Organisation and the Basque Culinary Centre.
The city that got first place in the Michelin Guide in 2017 and hosts three of the top 10 restaurants in Asia's 50 Best Restaurant List took the opportunity to maximize its potential as a food destination with more than 500 international experts.
Food not yet in
"Culinary art is a kind of cultural heritage and even the most important cultural heritage," cultural researcher Ñaëng Vaên Baøi said at a workshop on preserving and developing Vietnamese cuisine held in Haø Noäi last March.
Researcher Vöông Xuaân Tình, former rector of the Ethnic Studies Institute, said that Vieät Nam had abundant natural resources to develop gastronomy tourism thanks to various ethnic groups and diversified cultures.
"For example, we can create food tours exploring vegetarian dishes, dishes by different ethnic groups, dishes serving religions…," he was quoted in Thanh Nieân News as saying.
"In the central region, tourists can try vegetarian food on the first and the 15th day of a lunar month in Ñaø Naüng and Hoäi An."
According to a survey by the World Food Travel Association, around 25 per cent of tourists are interested in the local food where they visit.
"Food has its own attractions," he said. "For example, the chilli festival in Singapore, the chocolate festival in New York and wine tourism in Europe."
Tình said that Vieät Nam's cuisine had been neglected. "Only some companies run food tours on a small scale," he continued.
The Vieät Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has made a detailed plan for developing tourism to 2020 with a vision of 2030, but only one page mentions food.
In Haø Noäi, a centre for culinary art in the north, not a single word on cuisine was mentioned in its 2017 plan.
"Gastronomy tourism is underdeveloped in comparison with other countries, from strategy to action and efficiency," Tình said.
According to Nguyeãn Thò Thanh Höông, deputy director of the VNAT, the country has hosted various activities to introduce local food to tourists.
"In 2017, the food festival in the northern province of Laøo Cai was a highlight," she said.
"In 2018, there was also a food festival in the northern province of Quaûng Ninh.
"In April, 2018, there was a traditional cake festival in the southern province of Caàn Thô. Every year, HCM City hosts an international food festival.
"The Vieät Nam Chef Association has just been set up under the Vieät Nam Tourism Association."
Höông confirmed that the State sponsors food festivals but not food tours, which should be run by private companies.
Phaïm Haø, director of Luxury Travel, which runs various food tours, said it was not easy to find suitable guides who understood the culinary arts and loved culture.
"These guides can inspire tourists with their passion for the culinary arts," he said.
Culinary expert Nguyeãn Quang Vieät suggested the establishment of a special day for famous food like phôû.
Acecook Vieät Nam, a Japanese enterprise specialising in dry noodles, has registered April 4 the Day of Phôû in Japan as phôû is pronounced in Japanese nearly the same as the word "four" in English.
To enhance connectivity for tourism, the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Cross-Border Transport of Passengers by Road Vehicles has been signed to facilitate unified cross-bor- der mobility for tourists and to promote overland travel between ASEAN members.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has been very active in hosting media trips to promote ASEAN Connectivity.
The most recent five-day trip was held in last September linking Bangkok with Mandalay, Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang.
There are around 600 international flights per week departing from Thailand to other destinations in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vieät Nam and Thailand.
The North-South Corridor will connect the south of China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, while the East-West Corridor starts from India and finishes in Vieät Nam.
In conclusion, among various strategies to promote ASEAN tourism, sustainability has been chosen together with developing culinary arts and enhancing regional co-operations for a "One Single ASEAN Destination". VNS