"Before, we were always worrying about the problems coming from growth. Now that we are on the pathway to sustainability our opportunities seem endless."
Mr Le Tuan Anh, Deputy Director of Marketing, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
Tourism statistics from the Vietnam General Statistics Office show that from 2000 to 2013, international visitor arrivals to Vietnam more than tripled, from 2.1 million visitors to 7.6 million, and domestic tourism from 11.7 million to 35 million. The sector's success, however, brought with itself risks of harming the environment and the relationship with the local people. The EU is supporting Vietnam with a tourism marketing strategy that considers the social and environmental impacts of tourism alongside growth.
Lotus flower simbolizes the sustainability principle of Vietnam's tourism sector
“About 5 years ago, tourism marketing in Vietnam for many people was mainly about promotion,” says Mr Le Tuan Anh, Deputy Director of Marketing, Vietnam National Administration for Tourism (VNAT). At the time, our aim was simple – just increase tourism.”
“However, with such success, we started to realise that some of our top tourist destinations like Ha Long Bay were being loved to death by the visitors,” notes Mr. Anh.
“We were struggling to manage the crowds and to maintain the infrastructure such as the ferry wharfs and the trails to caves and lookouts. We also noticed more rubbish in the water, and small incidents of friction starting to emerge between visitors and local communities.”
“So in terms of visitor arrivals, we were more than achieving our goals; but we were doing it at the risk of harming the environment and the relationship with the local people. We clearly had to change the way we were doing business,” said Mr. Anh.
“In 2010, when the EU proposed to the Vietnamese Government a programme on responsible tourism, we knew this was exactly what we needed”.
“To date, we have made great progress. With the help of the EU Environmentally and Socially Responsible Tourism (ESRT) programme we now have a Tourism Marketing Strategy that still allows for growth, but also focuses on developing quality products that are based on the strengths of Vietnam’s destinations, and not only considers economic benefits, but also social and environmental impacts,” adds Mr. Anh.
Sustainability is also reflected in the current incarnation of the nation’s tourism logo, a vibrant lotus flower sprouting out of the word Vietnam.
“The petals of the lotus flower reflect Vietnam’s strategic product lines: marine/beach tourism, cultural tourism, nature-based tourism, and city-breaks. By sensitively promoting nature and culture in our product line, we are not only helping to preserve our natural and cultural heritage for which as a nation we are very proud, but we are also adding new economic value to the environment and people’s cultural heritage. Increasing demand for natural and cultural heritage products is for example, supporting employment in rural homestays, craft villages and for performance groups, and greater visitation to protected areas is helping fund nature conservation”, explains Mr. Anh.