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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries

STRATEGIC PLANNING AND STANDARDS FOR ECOTOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN VIETNAM
Tran Dinh Lam, Ph. D Head, Office of International Relations and Research Affairs University of Social Sciences and Humanities Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City 10-12 Dinh Tien Hoang St., Dist. 1, Hochiminh City, Vietnam

Abstract
Introduction: Thanks to the practice of “Doi moi” policy since 1986, ecotourism has recently emerged as a fresh aspect of the tourism industry in Vietnam. It has enjoyed primary concerns from the Governmental authorities and related bodies, who have painstakingly made every effort to boost it to become the promising economy in the near future. Although it has undergone the initial experiences, ecotourism in Vietnam has boasted beneficial effects. This has been demonstrated by the increasing number of ecotourists coming to Vietnam every year. The concept of ecotourism in minds of majority of Vietnamese people, however, has still been perceptible and ambiguous. This research paper is devoted to discussing the current situation of ecotourism in Vietnam and suggesting strategic plans and standards to promote it. Topographical features and existing natural potentials of Vietnam are delineated as a general view; ecotourist practices in Vietnam as well as related policies have also been mentioned and discussed. The paper is a comprehensive study of ecotourism situation in Vietnam with a few of experiences drawn and lessons analyzed. From the issuance of documents guiding managing and organizing ecotourist activities to the practical realities which have presented negative results and inconsistencies. Diverse opportunities and challenges in the sector will be identified and problems will also be addressed. A thorough view of the potential and reality of ecotourism in Vietnam has bred feasible measures to empower it: Two case studies concerning community involvement will be examined to prove the fact that ecotourism in remote and poor areas can serve as a tool for socioeconomic growth and poverty alleviation. FDI projects for ecotourism will also be identified as an optimal vehicle for developing and exploiting existing ecotourist potential of Vietnam. Two major investment projects will be presented with promising features about infrastructure, favorable natural conditions and professional services. Above all, the paper will offer some strategic plans and standards for ecotourist development in Vietnam.
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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
Findings: Due to the minor scope of this research paper, there has not yet been time to provide a detailed analytical analysis of what exactly has been found. However, it has been found that the current situation of ecotourism in Vietnam has presented both negative and positive effects. There still remain various problems concerning the awareness of Vietnamese people and ecotourist education for people in charge: Unconscious constructions and mass exploitation of natural resources have resulted in environmental damages. Additionally, education for people working in the sector, local residents and ecotourists are inadequate, which has lead to irresponsible ecotourist activities and ineffective restoring efforts. The development of ecotourist sites has been given more and more priorities. The policies concerning ecotourism have, however, revealed inconsistence, which have resulted in poor and ineffective management and organization of ecotourist activities in nature reserves. In some ecotourist sites in remote areas, there are local participation in the industry and profits are shared to them, which has partially fulfilled the purpose of poverty alleviation targeted by the Government. Professional training is, however, inaccessible to local people and ecotourist staff so the initial results are not very effective financially as well as educationally. Some public-private partnership initiatives have been recorded in some tourist corporations which have harvested beneficial effects in enticing domestic and international ecovisitors. A harmonious combination of diverse features of nature and professional managerial skills has brought about meaningful results for these ecotourist resorts: Vinpeal ecotourist resorts and spa, Vam Sat ecotourist sites, Saigon-Binh Chau Ecotourist and resorts… Sanitary standards and recycling methods have not been strictly applied and updated due to the inadequate education and poor management of local authorities. Unconscious littering and obsolete facilities such as water drainage system and electricity supply in some areas have reached alarming level; Ecotourist marketing strategies are not professional and effective, indeed. Conclusion: Ecotourism development in Vietnam is a long-term effort and facing a lot of challenges. In order to facilitate the implementation of strategic plans and the application of standards for promoting ecotourism, it is demandable for the Government, related bodies and local communities to get collectively involved in the attempt to upgrade concerned knowledge, protect existing natural resources, diversify ecotourist activities and improve professional services. More feasible and effective measures should be properly figured out and consistently conducted to preserve the natural potentials and attract FDI for ecotourist promotion and development.
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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
Introduction: Since the introduction of renovation policy in 1986, the market-oriented mechanism has refreshed the economy of Vietnam and a vehement energy has been nourished. Tourism has become the great concern of the Government: The Master Plan of tourism development for the period 1995-2010 ratified by the Prime Minister in May 1995 and the state decree on tourism coming into effect since February 1999 have highlighted the target of the Government to boost tourism to be a spearhead economic sector while maintaining the natural conditions and the cultural values to entice domestic and international tourists. Ecotourism, therefore, has emerged as a fresh component in tourism industry of Vietnam. With the diversity of natural resources impenetrated by “commercialization and mass-tourism outfits” and richness of cultural heritage, Vietnam has boasted its favorable opportunities for developing ecotourism. As a “cradle” of 13,000 floral species and over 15,000 fauna species, Vietnam possesses a promising potential for ecotourism development. Practically speaking, ecovisitors to Vietnam may enjoy hands-on experiences by exploring protected national parks, participating in traditional village celebrations or taking a canoe trip down Mekong river. The presentation of local cultures and offering a life style experience for tourists have been listed as priorities in all ecotourist programs. Mostly, cultural activities are conducted with fervent participation of host communities. The cooperation with local people, actually, brings about the improvement of participatory activities for tourists. The ever-increasing number of domestic and international visitors coming to Vietnam every year has been a significant encouragement for the industry in their efforts to promote tourism. According to the Youth Newspaper (dated April 29th, 2004) Vietnam welcomed 980.000 visitors in the first four month of 2004, increasing 5% over the same period last year. Hochiminh City, the major economic centre of Vietnam has boasted its enormous number of international tourists in the first four months of 2004: 580.362 people, 16% increased over the same period last year, the majority of them are Japanese visitors. The stable rising 10% comes from those of USA, Britain and France, especially Thai tourists: increasing 30% over March 2004. Yet ecotourism in Vietnam is currently at an early stage, it is therefore challenging for people to find out a satisfactory compromise between preserving the natural environment and exploiting it properly for ecotourism purposes. If short-term economic benefits are prioritized over conservation of biological resources, ecotourism development can jeopardize the ecosystems instead of promising socio-economic and cultural benefits. In an endeavor to prepare Vietnam for the integration into global tourism market, it is imperative to create strategic plans and standards for developing ecotourism as “the fastest growth among the various branches of tourism industry” in a environmentally effective as well as economically beneficial way. 1. Ecotourism development in Vietnam: As a small tropical country with temperate climate and favorable natural conditions, Vietnam has great potential for ecotourism for its high biodiversity. Ecotravelers to
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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
Vietnam can also enjoy the cultural diversity of 54 ethnics, traditional occupations, a long history of national construction and beautiful literary works. “Marine and coastal ecosystems in Vietnam are very abundant and represent all the features of a tropical sea, with significant economic and environmental values.” (Environmental Database Division, 2002). Moreover, Vietnam is considered one of sixteen countries with the highest biodiversity in a wide range of ecosystems (WCMC 1962). The identification of ecotourism in Vietnam was initiated by the cooperative implementation with New Zealand experts of the “Pilot planning study of nature and adventure tourism opportunities in Vietnam” in 1995. This project was followed by developing the Strategy for Vietnam’s Environment towards the year 2000 when international organizations like UNDP, UNEP, WB, IUCN suggested that ecotourism would make great contributions to nature conservation, as well as the protection of Vietnam’s natural heritage sites and cultural relics. (Trung 1998) The Master Plan for developing strategies for Vietnam tourism to the year 2010 approved by Prime Minister in May, 1995 also highlighted the strategy of “maintaining, restoring and developing tourism resources and environment (including natural and human cultural resources).” Obviously, sustainable ecotourism development will be out of reach in the negligence of preserving natural beauty and cultural traditions of host community that possess biological resources. Tourism sector has contributed tremendously to the economic flourishment of Vietnam, but concurrently it has also resulted in environmental degradation, biodiversity deterioration other adverse impacts. This negative experiences have been presented due partially to limited knowledge of “ecological or environmental tourism”, “sustainable and responsible tourism.” Natural landscapes have been negatively changed due to the rambling construction of hotels and other tourism-serving infrastructure, historical remains seriously damaged and historic-cultural heritages encroached on. Liquid and solid waste pollutes seriously the environment. The current rapid urbanization, modernization and a rapid increase in navigation in coastal areas has contributed to a corresponding increase in the quantity and categories of pollutants in the marine environment, damaging marine resources, particularly in the coastal areas of North and South Vietnam. The concentration of pollutants is increasingly being detected in the sea. Many coral reefs have been destroyed and faded in Bach Long Vi, Cat Ba and some other islands in Quang Ninh province, as well as in the central and southern region of the country. There has also been a serious deterioration in the fishery yields in coastal areas. Tropical primitive forests are heavily tramped on, vulnerable ecosystems, sea islands, caves, coral reefs, etc. are damaged by tourist activities. Mass exploitation of mineral products has serious impacts in the environment. Currently, over 50 different kinds of mineral products have been exploited by over 1,000 mines, which has caused considerable damages to the land
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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
environment, destroyed forests and polluted the water and air environments. The coal exploitation in Quang Ninh has destroyed hundreds of km2 of forests and left more than 100 million tons of waste soil and stone. This forest has been impossible to be rehabilitated, for the increasing concentration on oil and heavy metal has resulted in sedimentation, erosion and pollution of rivers, streams and sea water in Ha Long Bay. Potentially speaking, however, tourism enhancement also presents benefits at various fields in Vietnam: economic, environmental and ecological and social-cultural aspects. Tourism can bring a lot of favorable conditions to a specific location, like jobs, income and the establishment of certain services. Local communities can benefit modern road system, water drainage and electricity supply which may not be constructed in the absence of tourism. In order to foster a sustainable ecotourism in Vietnam, it is crucial for all skateholders (Government, tourism industry, private sector, host communities and tourists) to respect intrinsic values of natural resources and follow the principles introduced. Ass. Prof. Dr. Vu Tuan Canh, the vice chairman of Viet Nam Administration for Tourism noted, “Effective, rational development and exploitation of ecotourism potential will create the conditions for integration into nature, recovery of health, education of tourists and those responsible for preserving natural areas and environment, preservation and development of cultural values of local communities as well as bringing authentic benefits to local people.” (Canh 1998) 2. Orientation for environmental management of ecoutourism areas Ecotourism has become a source of educational entertainment for ecovisitors who desire to experience the rich natural resource of Vietnam and get better understanding of its cultural relics. It is obvious that the arrival of visitors bring about financial and cultural benefits, however, misuse of natural resources for attracting them, such as spontaneous building of inns, resorts and other facilities, may result in negative impacts. As the number of tourists soars, management activities definitely presents challenges for managerial boards of ecotourism areas, indeed. A positive enthusiasm and high capacity of confronting obstacles are requirable to the managerial board. They are supposed to have the essential concern about such problems as: Building favorable infrastructure for the ecotourist site, improving educational level and raising awareness of local residents by organizing training courses of tourism and related services for them. Promoting national ecotourism by publishing its image on internet, delivering leaflets, brochures or organizing incentive tours. Moreover, the quality of services should be improved and tourist products should be diversified with a reasonable financial management. The brilliant case of Queen Sirikit’s Botanic Garden should be taken into serious consideration. It is Thailand’s first botanic garden, Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden (QSBG), whish was founded in the early nineteen nineties and titled under the Queen’s name in 1994. Here botanical research and conservation have been conducted. The
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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
Garden encompasses a forested area of 2,600 acres at the edge of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, presently becomes the prime source of Thai valuable plants and biodiversity. Tourists entering the Garden can contemplate an array of precious plants of the country and five principle trails for visitors to visit: the Arboretum Trail, the Thai Orchid Nursery, the Climber Collection Trail, the Rock Garden Trail and the Glasshouse Complex. The Glasshouse Complex, which may deserve visitors’ exploration. It has 4 exhibition conservatories of various flora species. The glass houses yield its special Rainforest Collection, the Aquatic House, the Cacti and Succulents and the Orchid and Fern House. Inquisitive explorers can be satisfied with finest fantasy about the natural beauty and its magical features. It appears to be a challenging confrontation for the sector in Vietnam when ecotourism promotion has been limited by the poor and uncoordinated management and organization. Provincial tourism departments are assigned to manage most resorts and tourist sites. It is common in some national parks where managerial boards cooperate with tourism departments to invest in constructing infrastructure to collect fees and share with one another. This is due to the equivocal laws. For example, the forestry sector are responsible for managing special use forests. The managerial boards of National Parks are managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development while those of Nature Reserves and Cultural, Historical and Environmental Forests are managed by Provincial and City People’s Committees. In Con Dao National Park, various units get involved in the management and organization: tourism managers, local fishermen, military units, district government and Con Dao National Park. The Decision No. 08/2001/QD-TTg by the Prime Minister (November 11, 2001), the Minister of Culture and Information in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is responsible for establishing and managing Cultural, Historical and Environmental Forests. (Phan Nguyen Hong et al., 2002). These complexities of juridical system have resulted in clumsy managerial strategies of ecotourism in Vietnam. The effort of enhancing sustainable ecoutourism must include its basic principles, which are considered ultimate guidelines for creating plausible managerial mechanism of ecotourism spots. Pam Wight has sketched out those navigating principles as follows: 1. Tourist activities must not degrade the resource 2. Visitors should be offered educational first-hand experiences 3. All stakeholders (host community, government, non-governmental organizations, industry, and tourists) must be involved 4. Tourism must respect the intrinsic value of natural resources 5. Tourism cannot overtax the resource supplies of the local region

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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
6. Stakeholders must be encouraged to develop partnerships 7. Tourist revenue must provide conservation, scientific, or cultural benefits to the resource, local community, and industry as a whole 8. These benefits must be long-term (Wight 1993, cited in Linsay 2003) Achieving and conducting these principles must involve not only managers of ecotourism areas but also host communities and ecotourists. An effective managerial mechanism in which financial benefits should not be give greatest priorities should be taken into account. On the other words, an environmentally oriented management is expected. This should involve the collective participation of stakeholders and other countries in the same effort to maintain sustainable environment and develop ecotourism, indeed. The following measures should, therefore, thoughtfully considered: 2.1 Participation of host communities : One of the primary values of tourism is to create job opportunities for local community. Despite of painful efforts for developing tourism areas, failures may occur if the Government take the sole role in running those places and gaining commercial benefits while locals are marginalized. Management should, ideally, be channeled to host communities that own ecological resources. Revenues from ecotourism can be equally distributed to participants in the process. Their responsibility and commitment to conservation and development ideals should be highly appreciated and respected. Indigenous community should be allowed to take part in ecotourism business by taking the primary role in preserving and introducing to visitors ecological richness and cultural traditions. Locals should be employed to work as tour guides or staff working in ecolodges adjacent to the reserve. It is also a good form of raising their awareness and educating them to protect and maintain their natural resources; preventing them from being tempted to short-term commercial benefits by hunting scare animals for skins and cutting trees for wood, which may cause serious environmental problems. “In order to get profits from ecotourism and participate in conservation, the locals should play an active role in tourism planning and provide services and accommodation for the ecotourists. Profits gained from ecotourism should be used for the conservation of the local natural resources and the protected areas. So, the locals should be aware of these interrelationships.” (Lanh 1998) However, involving local population in the tourist sector underlines the immediate requirements of education. Measures should be taken to raise their responsible consciousness in eco-environmental protection and preservation of natural and cultural traditions. Traditional villages should be maintained and developed to appeal tourists. These places will become ideal destinations for those who are eager to explore and contemplate indigenous cultures and local characteristics. Mostly, local people live mainly on their natural resources. The economic benefits of ecotourism, should be shared with them by providing them with relevant jobs. They could be employed to work in hotels, restaurants or tourist companies. Those who have
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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
more favorable conditions may operate their own mini hotels or rooms for rent. They can earn their living by selling souvenirs for tourists, working as photographers or even collecting garbage in tourist sites. Located in Ayutthaya’s south at Bang Sai District, the Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center at Bang Sai, covering the area of 14 acres, is officially promoted by the Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT), which is under the Royal Patronage of Queen Sirikit. This has proved the great concern of Royal Thai in preserving and promoting traditional professions as well as improving living standards for local residents. (Tran Dinh Lam, 2004) The center provided occupational training for local people in remote areas to have professional skills in making traditional products such as weaving baskets from natural materials, making artificial flowers, weaving silk and cotton with traditional local patterns, dying, carving woods, making furniture and making Thai doll puppetry. Exclusive heritage in making traditional products has enjoyed tourists’ interest and appreciation. They can stroll around the Freshwater Aquarium and the Bird Park for a look at the biological diversity in Thailand. This is an ideal centre for contemplating and widening valuable knowledge about the sustainable development and conservation of Thailand, which harbors no dubious commercial purposes. The Bangsai Arts and Crafts Center is a “quintessence of this kind of development.” Here villagers are trained to produce various types of handicraft works for sale, thus improving their living conditions and preserving national precious arts and crafts. Case study 1: The Vam Sat Salty Flooded Forest Ecological Tourism Site located in Can Gio District, Hochiminh City used to be a vegetation area of diverse ecosystems, but largely destroyed by bombs and chemical toxicants of the wartime. The campaign of reforestation with the participation of volunteer city youths in 1979 did revive this precious World Natural Heritage. Among the different sectors of the forest, sector 15 was assigned to PhuTho Tourist company to invest on an ecological tourism site (Decision no. 101/QD-UB dated Dec 31, 1998). The area has been refreshed with more constructions and trees while the present conditions of environment were kept unchanged.

(1)

(2)

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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries

Pic.1: Visiting Vam Sat Pic.2: Stocks in Vam Sat Pic.3: Sailing on rivers of Vam Sat (3)
*The ecotourism facilities and services created to cater for ecological tourism:

The natural preservation area Lodging houses for tourists: made of wood and palm leaves with natural interior designs and all necessary appliances like water and energy supplies, bedwear and plywood. Natural water drainage (based on tide) Diverse means of transportation for traveling in different conditions Services for tourists and offices of managerial board Entertainment areas and restaurants Full electric service for tourist activities Well-equipped guesthouses Standard waste water drainage and garbage disposal
*Community involvement and poverty alleviation:

The development of VamSat ecotourism site has enhanced the living standards of the surrounding community: there are about 80-100 local residents employed permanently or seasonally to serve the Vam Sat tourism site. Among 11 cadres and 31 employees working on the Vam Sat ecological tourism, the majority of them are from local community. They are employed to work as tourist guides to introduce the magnificent sceneries of bat shelter and bird yard. Their thorough knowledge of these people has profoundly impressed visitors and left in tourists’ minds great affection and appreciation. The hospitality and enthusiasm of local people have lured approximately 7000 visitors to come to Vam Sat yearly, 10% of them are international visitors. Although ecotourism is still new to Vietnamese people and the financial benefits in Vam Sat ecological tourism site have not been very effective, with the effort and cooperation between public and private partnership, this area is expecting a promising future when its reputation is disseminated and the infrastructures are adequately built.
*Long-term contribution to the environmental sustainability

The environment practices and operation of ecotourism in Vam Sat ecological site have contributed greatly to the conservation of natural areas, such as Bat’s Swamp where hundreds of “Flying Fox” are living, a vegetation collection garden, wild animals area and natural birds yard with an area of over 100 hectares. Some rare birds listed in the red
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book of endangered species of the world, such as Mycteria leucocephala, painted stock have been preserved naturally in the ecotourism site. Case study 2: Saigon-Binh Chau Ecotourist and Resort managed by Saigon-Binh Chau Tourist Joint Stock Company has also boasted its social as well as environmental sustainability. Its existence has brought about career opportunities and promoted living standards for local communities. The tourist site covers 33 hectares of forest land (The Binh Chau Hot Spring area), 470 hectares of primeval forest, the 20 hectare Song Lo area, and the 48-hectare Ho Coc beach.

Soaking feet in hot spring *Jobs for locals

Boiling eggs in naturally hot water

With the projected investment of over 3 millions USD in reforming the Saigon-Binh Chau Ecotourist & Resort at 3 star standard, the dream of poverty alleviation is within the reach of local residents in this area. 113 out of 155 employees working for this resort are locals. Most of them are given stable salaries and have been trained to improve professional skills in serving domestic and foreign visitors. Other plans are also sketched out to cooperate with local people in building poultry farms, orchards to lure domestic and international visitors and to generate financial benefits for local residents.
*Nature conservation

• • •

Existing bare land has been covered with gardens of flowers and ornamental trees and green grass. Natural forest plants have be preserved and taken care of. A natural preserved zone namely Binh Chau-Phuoc Buu has been built to protect some wild animals such as: wild boar, monkey, python… Tourists are not allowed to hunt birds and animals. Notice boards with names of forest trees and their values of ecological balance are available everywhere.

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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
* Knowledge enhancement

Ecotourism business in Saigon-Binh Chau ecotourist site targets increasing knowledge for visitors and locals on the environmental values and natural preservation. These are implied in: • • • • Building infrastructures for the site, especially a sanatorium under the shade of mangrove forest; Ecological tours have been organized for tourists to enjoy natural scenery, plants, and animals, as well as to widen their knowledge about the values of nature and cultural features. The pathological value and convalescence of natural hot water and hot mud bath; Lectures about the valued of ecosystems and national culture are frequently delivered to tourists and local people. They are educated to have responsibility and awareness to preserve the ecosystems.

* Ecotourism facilities and services: The facilities and properties are built based on the available natural materials: bamboos, tiles and others. The waste water drainages are carefully established to avoid environmental pollution. 2.2 Education for tour guides, local residents and ecotourists In order to live up to sustainable ecoutourism values, which will benefit not only the reserve and host communities but also the national country industry. Vietnam is just on its initial way to realize the values of ecotourism, it is hence vital for managerial staffs, tourism workers and entrepreneurs to receive basic training to fulfill their jobs. This can be carried out by cooperating with other regional countries to organize special training programme for tour guides in ecotourism or local people who are capable of taking over the tourist jobs. Specifically, local people should be educated to nourish a pride of their indigenous land and raising an awareness of natural protection. It is a big challenge for Vietnam nowadays is the poverty and low education level in remote areas where local people can not afford or access good educational conditions. Educational programs should be frequently organized for them so that they can acquire adequate knowledge and the importance of ecological environment. The managerial boards and those who work in the sector should be professionally trained to manage national parks and protected areas in a legal and scientific way. They should be provided with necessary knowledge concerning the ecosystems and their intrinsic values to avoid abusing the natural environment for slyly commercial purposes on the one hand and to navigate local people and ecotourists to protect the ecotourism sites. Training people to show their enthusiastic feelings and affection towards tourists are also of great importance, which may result in tourists’ desire to come back or their bad impressions to the tourist sites (Tran Dinh Lam, 2003)

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Propagandas and movements should be held to encourage local people to grow trees and protect local forests and ecosystems. More attention should be paid to long-term education so that later generations will have powerful love for nature and great sense of environmental protection. Ecotourists should be provided with first-hand experiences by giving hand-outs educating them about intrinsic values of ecological nature and history of the target destinations so that they can appreciate their trips and respect local traditions as well as contribute their efforts to conservation purpose. Ecotourists should be invited to grow trees and carve their names on it to mark their arrival on the one hand and enhance the beauty of nature at the ecotourist sites on the other. This is the most effective way of luring others (relatives and acquaintances of ecovisitors) to come back and visit the ecotourist scenery. Long-term strategies should focus on the spot training, domestic and overseas training. Opportunities should be created for the people in charge to receive special training in countries where ecotourism is highly developed like Australia, USA, India, Thailand… via exchange agreements following which tourism workers can be sent to these countries to accumulate experience and expertise. They should be professionally trained to meet the international standards in different related agents of the sector. (Let consider this example: 413 tour guides in Hochiminh City have been issued professional cards of which 367 are of English, French and Chinese; only 27 are of Japanese, 30: German and not any of Korean, Thai and Spanish while the number of international visitors have soared up. (Hochiminh Tourism, volume 146-147) 2.3 Adoption of strict recycling of resources and high standards of hygienic ecolodges: High quality ecolodges and inns should be built near the reserves to satisfy varied demands of tourists. The accommodation facilities should be improved and upgraded to meet high standards of hygienic conditions. However, a great number of ecovisitors may result in the risks of environmental deterioration and accommodation degradation: large amounts of garbage could be thrown and ecological damages could be caused. Effective ways of recycling should be adopted to ensure the sound and safe environment for tourists. Locals should be encouraged to make full use of available materials to secure environment, the water source and reduce service costs, such as using banana leaves for wrapping food or using bamboo as building materials. Tourists may have the feeling of integrating into the nature and experiencing the natural products. They may learn to avoid using the industrial ones like plastic bags or canned food, which may destroy the environment and pollute the water source. “Tourists are also used to throwing away large amounts of packaging and other trash in the course of their daily activities. Binna Burra, an ecolodge in Australia, provides visitors with biodegradable toiletries and offers boxed lunches for hikers in reusable containers, generating no trash.” (Rome 2002, cited in Lindsay 2003)

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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
Awareness raising, also, is demandable not only to local residents but also to elementary pupils since they are still very young so that they can nourish a sense of hygiene, protection, renovation and development of natural landscapes. In industrialization process in Vietnam has presented new positive changes. However, some artisanal villages or communes, the environment has been seriously polluted due to the rehabilitation and development of artisanal production and small industries in artisanal villages or communes. It is estimated that there are more than 1,500 specialised artisanal. The popular trades of these villages are food processing, home appliances production, building materials production, textile, dyeing, paper-mill, scraps recycling (recycling of nylon, plastic, aluminium, iron, lead, copper etc.). Local communities have to suffer deteriorated health because of the air and water pollution caused by outdated production facilities, equipment. These technologies are installed in households or being scattered within villages. The unsanitary conditions of environment in rural areas of Vietnam has reached alarming level, especially in the poor rural areas, the majority of which in Vietnam have to use water from dug wells, waterways or rainwater without sanitary treatment. Only some communes surrounding big cities can enjoy piped clean water supply. There is an estimates of 30-40% of rural population are supplied safe potable water. Actually, this poor conditions have resulted in the spread of several diseases such as parasitic worms, malaria, hemorrhage and Japanese encephalitis. (Environmental Database Division, 2002) Seen from the above unfavorable conditions concerning improper sanitation and inadequate infrastructure, ecotourism may be turned to a failure if immediate measures are not taken. o More priorities should be given to improve the water treatment system and other existing facilities in some remote and poor rural areas of Vietnam. Sanitation standards should be followed by installing dustbins in all public places and educating people to keep hygienic environment. o Ecolodges with adequate facilities and equipment for tourists should be invested before the introduction of ecotourism. Garbage disposal systems should be strictly applies to avoid environmental pollution. Plastic containers such as water plastic bottles should be replaced with those made of glass so that tourists can not throw them unconsciously everywhere. Those glass containers can be refilled with drinking water and served for ecotourists at ecolodges and ecotourist sites. o The management and organization of those shelters for visitors should be assigned to local people who are familiar with the natural conditions and environment of their indigenous areas. They should be employed to work in the tourist sector and paid properly or they should be allowed to build houses for rent and are responsible for the sanitation standards.

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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries

3. Public – Private partnerships in ecotourism development and promotion. Vietnam hosts an enormous variety of landscapes, ecosystems and traditional cultures that serve as principal attractions for ecotourism activities. Proper plans and management, therefore, are vital to promote the sustainability of ecotourism development. In the light of the global current trend in semi-public but autonomous tourism organizations involving public-private partnership, Vietnam has gradually changed the conventional situation in which key roles and responsibilities belong exclusively to the government and central authorities. Private sectors now are allowed to take responsibilities and run their own resorts and tourist attractions. The Saigon-Binh Chau Ecotourist and Resort were established in 1989 by the jointventure between the Dong Nai Tourist Company and The Saigon Tourist Holding Company. In October 1999 the Saigon-Binh Chau Tourist Joint Stock Company has been formed by the following 9 companies: The Saigon Tourist Holding Company The Ba Ria Vung Tau Tourist Company The Eastern Joint Stock Commercial Bank The Thanh Binh Tourist Hotel Joint Stock Company The Thu Duc Tourist company The Gia Dinh Tourist Company The Saigon Tours Company, Ltd. The Saigon Construction Corporation The Huy Hoang Construction and Garment Company Thanks to this public-private partnership and joint-venture, the activeness and sensitivity to the market demands, this ecotourist and resort is awaiting a promising future for sustainable ecotourist development. Although it has been under initial process, it has brought about considerable financial benefits. 4. The meaningful role of attracting domestic and foreign direct investment in ecotourism development: Obviously, the development of ecotourism in Vietnam brings about great benefits to the economy. The local residents are given opportunity to get income and to improve their living condition. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects are, therefore, regarded as the optimal factor to facilitate the plan. Effective strategies of marketing and advertising should be sketched out and conducted to lure investment.

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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
State and private sectors as well as foreign invested institutions have been encouraged to invest in developing ecotourism by financing responsible conservation efforts. The ultimate objective ecotourism is based on conservation ethic. If the construction and installation of new infrastructure may cause environmental and ecological damages, it goes beyond the goal. Investment capital, therefore, should go partially to hiring local communities to protect the animal from being hunted for commercial purposes or training and propaganda programs in which tour guides, visitors and host communities are educated and encouraged to take pride of natural values and cultural characteristics. Vietnam boasts its abundant natural potentials which promise terrific opportunities for ecotourism development. In recent years, new tourist sites have mushroomed and many zoning plans have been carried out under the investment of domestic enterprises and international corporations. Vietnam's largest marine eco-tourism resort, Hon Ngoc Viet (Vinpearl Resort & Spa), located on Hon Tre Island off the coast of Nha Trang city in the southern province of Khanh Hoa, was fully funded by the Hon Tre Service and Tourism Co. Ltd. The VND 450 billion (around US $30 million) five-star resort lies on the northern part of Hon Tre Island, the largest island (36 sq.km) in Nha Trang Bay which has been named one of the 29 most beautiful bays in the world. The resort covering 130-ha and featuring comfortable and standard properties and facilities has proved to be one of the most ideal destinations for domestic and international visitors.

Van Don island is located in the country's northeastern sea with lovely white-sand beaches and the Van mountain with a height of 445m on Ban Sen islet has been gradually turned into one of the biggest ecotourism sites in Vietnam. With favourable natural conditions with unspoiled natural beauty and cultural, historical values, Van Don also features aquaculture and fishery industries. The improvement of the infrastructures such as roads, ports, electricity grids, safe water together with the investment of 120 billion VND by joint venture between Vietnamese and American partners, eco-tourism project on 110 ha will bring about positive changes for Van Don, which is expected to be a new destination for island tourism. In an attempt to attract FDI, people’s awareness and behavior should be raised. Everyone should be educated to show their hospitality and friendliness to visitors. They should respect and leave good impressions in tourists’ hearts when they come to Vietnam where they can not only experience fantastic natural landscapes, peaceful atmosphere but also enjoy Vietnamese’s zealous attitude and hectic feelings. The good impression and emotions from Vietnam will be engraved in visitors’ minds, which will inspire them to come back, cooperate and invest in this promising land. The impressive image of Vietnam will be exported to all over the world.

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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries

5.

Marketing strategy for ecotourism in Vietnam:

In order to enjoy worldwide reputation for its huge ecological potentials, Vietnam should publish its images on the internet by introducing zones of high biodiversity and protected areas of wildlife and national parks. “Estimate suggests that there are over 12,000 species of plants in Vietnam, 275 species of mammals, 800 bird species, 180 reptiles, 80 amphibians, 2470 fish and over 5,500 species of insects, with roughly 10% of the mammals bird and fish species being endemic. Unfortunately 28% of mammals, 10% of birds and 21% of amphibians and reptiles are listed as endangered (Socialist Republic of Vietnam 1994). A major cause is habitat loss through deforestation.” (Dearden 1998) Vietnam is a peaceful and amazing destination with friendly and hospitable people, affluent natural spots and high quality tourism services. The major markets of Vietnam Tourism will be countries in South-East and Pacific Asia, Western Europe and North America. Moreover, other thriving markets like China and India should be targeted as promising ones to cooperate and stimulate the tourism market. * Suggested advertising strategies: Tourist activities should be frequently diversified to satisfy ever-increasing demands for relaxation and natural exploration of tourists; Information should be emailed, faxed or posted to travel agents and tourist companies inside and outside the country. Domestic and international tourists should be promptly updated with the information concerning the new tourist activities, destinations and services; Billboards and road map of tourist sites should be placed in public places such as airport, bus stops, railway stations, etc. Surveys should be made to collect customers’ comments and suggestions to improve the services; Bilingual leaflets and brochures should be delivered to their doors. Press-conferences should be held to introduce ecotourist attractions and activities. Staff working in the industry should be trained in marketing strategies and customer services.

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Concurrent Session: Policy and planning of Tourism Product Development in Asian Countries
Conclusion: The vice chairman of Viet Nam Administration for Tourism, Vu Tuan Canh, stated, "With an annual contribution of US$2 billion to the State budget, tourism plays an increasingly important role in the country’s socio-economic development and has been identified by the State and Party as a leading economic sector." (VNS 2003) In order to create a pushing force for developing economy in its transformation and renovation process, Vietnam should give more priorities to tourism industry, which may result in commercial benefits for the country, employment for people and affluence of cultural aspects. Ecotourism, as promising field in tourism industry, is expected to contribute greatly to the national budget. Effective planning and standards for ecotourism development, therefore, should be worked out and implemented: managerial activities should be improved, which highlights the necessity of providing special training programmes and upgrading quality of ecolodges. Managerial boards at ecotourist sites and national parks should be more devoted and provided with a fresh vision to overcome obstacles and sketch out proper managing tools. This necessitates supports and concerns from local authorities and leaders of the industry in: Creating more favorable conditions for investment and construction of infrastructures for the ecotourist sites and surrounding areas; Concentrating on education from local level to raise awareness of eco environmental protection; Schools and centres for training tourist professional skills should be organized right at localities. Promoting, advertising and introducing national ecotourist sites in international tourist fairs, via Internet and commercials; exploration tours and incentive tours should be held. Moreover, cooperation with other regional countries, especially Thailand, should be strengthened in training human resources for the sector. Tourism workers should be skillful and professional in catering for tourists. Another ideal factor is that domestic and foreign direct investment should be highlighted as an imperative need and foreign invested projects concerning ecotourism development should be tempted. This underlines the creation of flexible policies that favor investors and facilitate their procedures so that they can feel safer and more appealed to their business. Finally, tourism in general and ecotourism in particular is not “a hen that lays the golden eggs”. It necessitates appropriate investment which must involve the collective support and contribution. When the conservation and development efforts are recognized and given more concerns, the attempt to reach them will become facilitated. Good planning for marketing Vietnam’s ecotourism may encounter failures or not work effectively in the absence of people’s efforts and awareness of the vital values of ecological resources.

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References Canh, Vu Tuan, Nguyen Thanh Long. 1998. An Overview of the Current State of Tourism in Vietnam and the Tourism Development Strategy. In Role of Ecotourism in Sustainable Tourism Development in Vietnam, held in Hanoi, April 1998. http://www.mekonginfo.org/ Canh, Vu Tuan. 2003. Vietnam News. http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com Chung, Vo Tri. 1998. Human-ecology perspectives of ecotourism in Vietnam. In Role of ecotourism in sustainable tourism development in Vietnam, held in Hanoi, April 1998. http://www.mekonginfo.org/ Dearden, P. 1998. Ecotourism and biodiversity conservation in Vietnam. In Role of ecotourism in sustainable tourism development in Vietnam, held in Hanoi, April 1998. http://www.mekonginfo.org/ Hochiminh Tourism (In Vietnamese). volume 146-147 Lam, Tran Dinh. 2003. Pondering on a memorable trip. Saigon Times Weekly. Volume 679, 4. Lam, Tran Dinh. 2004. Humanity comes from the generous heart. Saigon Times Weekly. Volume 688, 40. Lanh, Le Van. 1998. Ecotourism And Management Of The Tourism Environment In Vietnam's National Parks. In Role of Ecotourism in Sustainable Tourism Development in Vietnam, held in Hanoi, April 1998. http://www.mekonginfo.org/ Lindsay, Heather E. 2003. Ecotourism: The Promise and Perils of environmentallyoriented travel. Maryland: CSA. http://www.csa.com/csa/hottopics/ Luong, Pham Trung, Nguyen Tai Cung. 1998. Some results of research on "the scientific basis for the development of ecotourism in vietnam" . In Role of ecotourism in sustainable tourism development in Vietnam, held in Hanoi, April 1998. http://www.mekonginfo.org/ Recapitulative Report of Saigon-Binh Chau Ecotourist and Resort, 2003 Recapitulative Report of The Vam Sat Salty Flooded Forest Ecological Tourism Site, 2003 Wight, Pamela A. 1993. Ecotourism: Ethics or Eco-Sell. Journal of Travel Research 31(3), 3-9. http://www.rrcap.unep.org/reports/soe/vietnam/overview/environmental_concerns.htm http://www.vnagency.com.vn/NewsA.asp?LANGUAGE_ID=2&CATEGORY_ID=31& NEWS_ID=18942

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http://www.undp.org.vn/projects/vie96010/cemma/RAS93103/016.htm http://www.thailandgrandfestival.com/fest-guide.asp?festID=44 http://www.thailandgrandfestival.com/featured.asp?storyID=20 Tran Dinh Lam, Ph. D Head, Office of International Relations and Research Affairs University of Social Sciences and Humanities Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City 10-12 Dinh Tien Hoang St., Dist. 1, Hochiminh City, Vietnam Tel. (+)84 8 8221910 exit 105 Fax: (+)84 8 8221903 E-mail: Trandinhlam@fmail.vnn.vn. Homepage: www.hcmussh.edu.vn

19 The 6th ADRF General Meeting, 2002 Bangkok, Thailand