In many countries around the world, traditional art performance has become an indispensable part of tours, bringing large revenues for localities, travel companies and the nation as well.
Unfortunately, this model in Vietnam has not taken off and has not created a strong attraction among tourists. It seems the cultural and tourism managers have not really cooperated to develop this potential field.
Vietnam has boasting rights with many special types of art such as Hue royal court music, the space of gong culture in the Central Highlands, ancient Tuong (classical drama), ancient cheo (traditional operetta), Bac Ninh Folk Songs and water puppetry, and many other traditional art types.
In fact, these traditional arts have been performed here and there and receive active support from international friends.
In recent years, water puppetry has become a familiar traditional art in the capital's tourism sector because it is regularly performed by the Vietnamese Water Puppet Theatre, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and Hong Ha Theatre.
Following this success, the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism has recently built a program at the Cheo Hanoi Theatre to diversify tourism products.Not only Hanoi, but many provinces and cities across the country are also reviving traditional art forms. Ho Chi Minh City has its own program, including cai luong (reformed theatre), hat boi (classical theatre) and water puppets to serve tourists, while Nha Trang city has free street art performances.
Meanwhile, Can Tho province has a unique model integrating don ca tai tu performance with local tourism development activities. Nguyen Hien Dinh Tuong Theatre in Danang regularly performs for tourists.
In Binh Thuan province, apart from regular programs of dance music performed at tourism areas to serve visitors, Cham tradititional folk arts are being operated by the management board of Po Inu Sah Tower in Phan Thiet city.
This shows that traditional art performance has started to serve tourists and it has contributed to enriching domestic tourism products.
However, these efforts seem not to match the potential, and fail to reach the expected effectiveness of the two sectors. What are the reasons for this?
Meritorious artist Le Khanh Toan from the Vietnamese Department of Performing Arts, said the material facilities of theaters and performance facilities in the centre of cities were built 30-40 years ago so they are deteriorated. Moreover, their designs are bad and inconvenient for both the performers and the audience.
Besides, stage equipment is low quality, and sound and light are poor. Although some have recently been upgraded, they are still unreliable, unattractive and not well maintained.
Moreover, art programs have not been invested appropriately by managers, artistic directors, and artists in term of expense and artists’ professional enthusiasm.
According to Mr. Toan, most programs put on the most readily available shows without high artistic quality. Actors and actresses lack professional performing style.
Meanwhile, travel agencies also said that performance facilities fail to meet requirements for serving international tourists. The theatres are mainly in the city centres and face inconvenient transport with no parking or place to pick up or discharge passengers, and put on poor art performance programs.
In addition, many performances have many difficult lyrics while international visitors don’t know Vietnamese, or the shows are too long for the time of tours.
Particularly, travel companies are often passive about building such tours because performance schedules of theatres are fixed and not suitable with tour programs.
Need for skilful cooperation
According to travel experts, skilful cooperation is needed between the two sectors to build an art program suitable for tours. Art units collaborating with travel agencies to meet the needs of tourists should arrange the suitable performance schedules, and tourism activities also need additional support of traditional arts to help customers have more new and valuable experiences.
Deputy Director of the Vietnamese Water Puppet Theatre Dang Thanh Hai said that art units need to strongly promote their brands and research to introduce excellent and compact extracts and works for international visitors, to help them easily understand.
Meanwhile, the managers need to heavily invest and focus on building art programs aiming to serve tourists.
"First of all, it is necessary to identify the strengths and specificity of regions and make order. Additionally, it must build a separate space, practice and perform well to form the habit of enjoying new foods, gradually create trademark to attract tourists when visiting Vietnam," said Mr. Toan.