New trends in folk festivals
With the target of developing folk festivals to serve tourism, over the past ten years numerous festivals have been refreshed, contributing to promoting the localities’ tourism, for example Da Nang firework festival, Da Lat flower festival, the Red River Delta culture and tourism festival, Ha Long tourism festival and Tay Son – Binh Dinh festival.
However, it can be said that the people have not accepted the hurried combination of elements of folk festivals through tourism festivals or the theatricalisation of many folk arts forms. In addition, ‘record syndrome’, such as the largest banh chung (square glutinous rice cake) and banh day (round glutinous rice cake), the orchestra with the largest number of instrumentalists, the longest ceramic dragon and the longest Ao Dai (Vietnamese traditional dress), could not highlight the cultural characteristics nor create enough attraction for the festivals.
Commercialisation is popular in folk festivals with different manifestations, such as attracting tourists in all sorts of ways, having poor boxes everywhere, flourished spiritual services, scrambling tourists and reasonable fees.
It can be said that the trend of ‘secularisation’ has helped folk festivals become more integrated into daily life. However it has contributed to limiting their sacredness, causing confusion among long-time visitors, making them feel less at ease than they once did.
Folk festivals are often associated with religious facilities. Therefore, management agencies have paid much attention to restoring, embellishing and building facilities. This has created favourable conditions for tourists to visit the relic sites and join the festivals. However, with the arbitrary restoration of the relic sites has come a loss of the inherent value of spiritual spaces. For example, in many religious facilities, the statues have been painted in an untraditional way, and cement pillars have been used instead of wooden ones. The relics have all gradually become more similar and no longer retain their unique characteristics, so they would attract visitors, particularly foreigners.
To make folk festivals become a resource for tourism development
In order to make folk festivals become a sustainable resource for tourism development, it is very important to preserve their diversity in terms of forms, rituals and the cultural expressions which are associated with the particularities of each festival and each locality. The diversity will stimulate the visitors’ interest in experiencing different festivals in different regions and localities.
In addition, it is essential to remove the arbitrary restoration and renovation of folk festivals. The restoration should be implemented under the close coordination and support of cultural agencies and experts, in order to meet the people’s demand and aspirations.
Management agencies should remedy the unorganised commercialisation at folk festivals, such as appropriately arranging poor boxes and strictly managing services at festivals, in order to avoid the situation of taking unfair advantage of visitors.
The core essence of folk festivals is the sacredness; therefore managers need to preserve and promote this factor in order to improve their attractiveness. Moreover, folk festivals should be organised, preserved, performed and managed by the people.
Restoration and renovation of relic sites, the important spaces of festivals, must be implemented carefully. Visitors want to enjoy the artistic and traditional values of the relics, not a patchy miscellaneous modern and ostentatious works.
It can be seen that folk festivals, with their diversity and uniqueness, are an important resource for the country’s tourism development. However, folk festivals can hardly become an attractive tourism product without the contribution of tourism workers. Furthermore tourism can’t develop without the fulcrum of cultural values, including folk festivals. In order to take advantage of the festivals as a resource for tourism development, the close coordination between the folk festival’s owners and those working in the tourism sector is very necessary, working on the basis of mutual benefit.