Safety priority in adventure travel

October 04, 2022 | 10:59
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With tourism back on the agenda after a tough few years, the success of some adventure groups is setting the stage for new options to be made available in this country.

Jungle Boss, a company with six years of experience in adventure tourism and cave exploration in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, received $500,000 in June through the Shark Tank Vietnam TV show thanks to its development potential and unique business mode.

Safety priority in adventure travel
Photo: Hon Cau Beach, Con Dao Archipelago

Elsewhere, the Son Doong Cave expedition tour by Oxalis was voted a top adventure tour by National Geographic Adventure Magazine. The continuing success of Oxalis, an adventure travel company that tours in the famous caves, has inspired and motivated many other businesses to enter this field.

Adventure tourism is being explored by many companies in Vietnam, such as Viettrekking with mountain climbing tours, Topas offering mountain running tours, Vien Nam Sport & Tourism with paragliding products, and Vietasian Nha Trang with diving tours and underwater walking tours.

Numerous provinces and cities such as Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Quang Ninh, Quang Binh, Nghe An and others have strategies to promote adventure tours. In the mountainous area of the East and Northwest, trekking, climbing, and cave exploration tours are also very popular.

Currently, Jungle Boss is offering eight adventure tours in Quang Binh province with prices ranging from $35 to $1,500. The swing tour to explore Pygmy cave and Kong Collapse cave is the most popular. In the first four months of this year, the company sold tours to nearly 500 guests with expected revenues of $869,000 to be made by the end of the year.

“The company’s products currently reach less than 30 per cent of capacity. If exploiting the full potential, it is expected that next year’s revenues could triple,” said Le Luu Dung, CEO of Jungle Boss.

Nguyen Chau A, general director of Oxalis, shared that the company served 6,000 guests in 2020 after the pandemic kicked off, although that was nearly half of the number of visitors compared to before borders shut down. Since reopening at the beginning of 2022, Oxalis began selling tours for 2023 to international guests.

“And even through the restrictions, since December last year we kept all our staff and paid all employee salaries,” Chau A said.

Director of Quang Binh Department of Tourism, Ho An Phong, explained that the province has built a plan to turn Son Doong cave into the “capital of adventure tourism in Asia”.

Elsewhere, vice chairman of the Bac Kan Tourism Association Nguyen Tuan Linh said, “Adventure tourism is opening up opportunities for localities, especially in mountainous areas. This is a product line capable of attracting long-stay visitors and guests who spend more money.”

However, while Vietnam is rich in natural resources and favourable for building unique experiences, safety is still a concern.

Nguyen Van My, chairman of the Member Council of Lua Viet Tours, said that adventure tourism in Vietnam was mainly about thrill-seeking and extreme sports such as zip-lining and paragliding.

“To develop adventure tourism, it is necessary to standardise equipment and coaches. Adventure tourism businesses also need to be fully equipped with protective equipment and must be licensed by a competent authority,” My said.

In the central region, adventure tourism stands out with cave exploration tours in Quang Binh province. In Hanoi, Ba Vi National Park Management Board has been conducting climbing tours to explore the National Park for many years.

However, the number of businesses licensed to operate and exploit adventure tourism products professionally is also limited, according to Bobby Nguyen, a tourism product development expert with 20 years of experience.

Nguyen said that the most important factor when developing any tourism product, especially adventure tourism, lies in the management process.

“Businesses must manage according to the process, putting the safety of visitors first. When participating in adventure tours, visitors also need to carefully research the service provider and check their operating permits, especially those provided by the regulatory agencies,” he said.

Chau A of Oxalis said that to organise a four-day, three-night cave expedition for 10 guests, the company has to hire up to 30 staff, including a foreign expert, one local tour guide, five security people, one cook, and other staff to carry equipment and tools for the expedition.

He suggested creating opportunities for skilled people and foreign experts to go to Vietnam to develop this product line.

Similarly, Jungle Boss also cooperates with cave experts of the British Royal Caving Association, the US National Caves Association, and other rescue experts to conduct training programmes to improve cave expedition safety skills for the team of guides, safety assistants, and service staff.

“Most importantly, we have cooperated with domestic and international cave safety experts as well as local authorities to develop a separate safety plan,” said CEO Dung.

One adventure tourism product that tourists especially love is paragliding in Mu Cang Chai of Yen Bai province, as run by Mebayluon Paragliding. In September alone, Mebayluon served more than 1,000 visitors. On average, each paragliding flight will last 10-30 minutes at a cost of $95-115.

Currently, Mebayluon is the only unit in the north of the country licensed to do business in paragliding activities with a full flight licens.

According to the director of Mebayluon Paragliding Dang Van My, a paragliding pilot with many flight hours in Vietnam, paragliding is an adventure sport, so safety must be a top priority.

“All flights are covered by health insurance. Pilots are required to meet certain requirements for flight hours. We only cooperate with pilots with sufficient qualifications and leading experience in Vietnam and internationally. In addition, the protective equipment is also regularly tested and there is a team of five medical staff for each site,” Van My said.

Although the company receives hundreds of registrations every day, Mebayluon only takes on 30-70 guests per day to ensure their safety when experiencing the activity.

“Adventure tourism is a relatively new form of tourism here, and will be a top trend in the future. Vietnam is focusing on developing tourism, so the government needs to pay special attention to this hot product so that businesses can develop properly,” My added.

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