Son La is the long-standing home of 12 brotherly ethnics, each of which has its own features. Many ethnic villages and hamlets still keep their rich tradition which are advantages for cultural tourism development.
Son La owns many attractive tourism resources, upon which the province can base to create unique tourism products to bring about social – economic benefits. The province mapped out strategies to promote tourism and policies to encourage tourism development in period 2001 – 2010 with the vision to 2020.
After 10 years of implementing tourism promotion strategy, the provinces has managed to develop accommodation system and supporting services rapidly. The province has attracted over 150 organizations and enterprises - Vietnam travel companies
into tourism development, creating over 2,000 jobs for local people. At present, the province has over 100 accommodations (including several 3 star hotels) with over 1,600 rooms and more than 3,000 beds. The number of international and domestic tourists continuously increased. In 2010, the number of tourists coming to Son La was 400,000, up 2.5 times against 2005, in which there were 27,400 international tourists, gaining VND 82.5 billion. The number of tourists in Vietnam travel
visiting Son La in the first six months of 2011 rose dramatically.
According to Ms Mai Thu Huong, Director of Son La Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the province has advantages to promote tourism based on its natural resources such as fabulous caves, imposing waterfall, dam lakes, hot mineral water mines, temperate weather. Until now, there are 37 historical revolutionary relics; 36 archaeological vestiges; 14 beauty spots; 3 architectural vestiges of art. Among those 10 are nationally ranked, 29 locally ranked. Some famous vestiges are Son La prison, Moc Ly Military Post (Moc Chau), Thuan Chau platform, entrenched fortification Na San etc and beautiful hydroelectric stations such as Son La, Huoi Quang, Nam Chien ones. They would be appealing addresses if properly invested into and exploited.
Son La has created many ecological community tourism models in hamlets such as Phu Mau, Na Bai in Chieng Yen commune, Ang village in Dong Sang commune (Moc Chau), Hai, Ca, Bo villages in Chieng An precinct etc.
There are many traditional festivals such as “moi” festival, “keo si” festival, bauhinia festival, “xen ban xen muong” (pray for peace), xip xi (similar to festival in middle of lunar July of the Kinh people, honoring those founded the village), festival to pray for rain, for crop, “nao xong” festival, sowing festival, “kin pang then” (a festival of the white Thai people, with highly community spirit), washing hair festival, “xen pang a” (of Khang ethnic, held to thank and invite saints to join sacrifices and pray for prosperity and peace), “muong a ma” ( by Xinh Mun ethnic to pray for peace, crops, etc), festival to join new crop etc. Varied folk games are transferred and held such as boat race, “tung con” (throwing a sacred ball through the ring), “nem pa pao” (transferring a clothing ball), shooting with a crossbow, banh day making, tug of war, pushing the rod, “danh tu lu”, dragon sitting on eggs, “to mak le” etc. There are plentiful dances such as xoe dance, xap, cone hat, pan-pipe, umbrella, “tha kenh”, ring dance, “cong top” dance, “au eo”, and “cau khap, loi dang, cau vi”. Besides, visiting Son La, people can enjoy many interesting and unique cuisine features with ethnic dishes such as can wine, hoang wine, pa pinh top, mo tu cay, nhua dang, lam rice, banh day.
Despite such potential and advantages, Son La tourism has many things to do to bring these advantages into full play.
In Son La’s tourism development strategy with vision to 2020, the province targets to include Son La tourism in the key economic sectors in the provincial economic – social development strategy, give priority to local advantageous tourism products namely eco-tourism, adventurous tourism, cultural tourism and resort.