Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ecotourism in Vietnam

I just read an article about Ecotourism in general and in in Vietnam in particular on Vietnambridge

I mentioned:
The director of the Institute for Tourism Development Research, a member of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Dr Ha Van Sieu, said there was a growing trend among world tourists to head for undiscovered rural destinations, where local populations led simpler and often poorer lives.

1. Growing trend doesn't mean that you can close the beach resorts. It' still on a small level in total numbers and I am sure it will remain.
2. There are at least two types of eco tourists: The one who are interested in local culture, but don't want to be local. The expect to be driven two the spot by an airconditioned bus, without wasting two much time for travelling, and of course the accommodation must be 4 star plus. The love to see a solar panel in the roof top and a brochure mentioning the reuse of waste water. Thats the majority of eco tourists.
Only a few are really the one who walk three hours to get a great panoramic view, sleeping under a moskito net or even try a home stay.

Nguyen Phuong Anh, deputy head of VNAT’s Hotel Department, said that tourism businesses had left certain scars on the environment via the consumption of resources, energy, food and other materials, as well as the discharge of waste and noise pollution.

The "asian" tourism might have left these scars. The cheap and poorly managed hotels. The one where the local people stay as well as the Koreans and Chinese. I know at least one case where a hotel company tried to set up a new hotel in a rural area and gave up, because the local authorities didn't cooperate. They demanded more money and more money. Just stop giving licenses to the one who pay the most. And: A golf course is NOT eco. That leads to the other problem: Vietna is perfect in labeling things without having any idea what the meaning is.

According to a survey presented by SNV Nepal – where Viet Nam learned about promoting responsible tourism – 70 per cent of American, British and Australian travellers said that they would pay up to $150 more for a two-week stay in a hotel with a "responsible environmental attitude".

I bet this is just not true. They may say it, but clearly don't do it. Otherwise we would have a boom in eco tourism. But it's still a niche market.

People travel mainly to relax and enjoy their holidays. They may be interested in another culture, but not for two weeks. Like german tourists, where tour operator know that in the second week they must serve westrn food in the hotels, because the tourists are done with local food.

The problem in Vietnam with the low number of tourists and the even lower number of repeaters ist still infrastructure. It takes too long to go to certain palces, and when you are there, nothing is around. No restaurants, bars, entertainment.


Mush Heads said...

As you said, the first group you mentioned is not really about eco-tourism. Eco-tourism is big in some counties; it's very big in Mongolia. A lot of back packers head to parts of Asia for the real deal type of experience. They are not looking for expensive hotels, and they cannot even afford them sometimes. They want to travel and see the world as it is, and they enjoy adventure. Numbers add up, and eco-tourism has been an important trend for tourist sector economies. Vietnam, however, has a lot more work to do in terms of opening up to the world. Vietnam also needs to train its workforce with better customer service skills. Good service does not happen by mistake, and there are too many other places known for world class customer service.

Wayne said...

Interesting discussion - and very relevant. Responsible tourism in Vietnam is something that only lip service is paid to - and that is unlikely to change in the short term.

The article that Thomas refers to does a good job of describing the current mindset of wayward hotels

"The first-ever inspection on the implementation of the environmental protection law at tourism sites in five provinces, conducted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in June, found that 22 of 23 businesses did not own waste discharge licences.

And 20 of them did not have annual environmental protection plans.

Only three of the businesses knew about environmental impact assessments, which was a requirement for tourism enterprises."

This does not surprise me. However the collection and dissemination of this sort of information is a positive step.

The training of the workforce is one way - as Mush correctly points out - but that is something that the source article also reports on. Both the Mai Chau Lodge in Hoa Binh Province and the Topas Eco Lodge in Sa Pa in the north are doing that - and they are in remote areas.

So it is possible to do - and those early starters can set the pace for others to follow. Such destinations though comply with Thomas' second type of eco-tourist (the air-conditioned bus and four star accommodation) - of which they are the majority.

For those wanting a more outdoor type of experience should probably best consider adventure travel tours - mountain bikes, motor-cycle trips and white water rafting - trips that are environmentally friendly and involve home stays.

Such operations are usually off the beaten track and are not dependent on infrastructure - which does remain the biggest block to the expansion of tourism in Vietnam IMHO.

Wayne Tinlin