Vietnam travel – Walking Softly
Can a rising awareness of the way tourism impacts the country make change for the better?
By Brian Webb
This is an English language publication. If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’ve come from another country. In that case, the reasons you’ve come so far probably have to do with Vietnam’s beauty, cultural or natural. So it’s very much in your interest to preserve whatever it was that brought you here. Of course you’ll could be Vietnamese as well, in which case it’s even more in your interest to preserve that beauty.
Whether you’re an expat, a tourist or a local, the tourism industry has an enormous effect on your experience of this country. The bottom line is that, whether you are a tourist or not, the travel industry has an obvious and undeniable impact on the local economy, society in general as well as the physical landscape. The way this industry operates now and the way it develops in coming years is of concern to everyone here.
In the past, many tour operators and tourists themselves have conducted themselves in ways they cause harm to the destinations they use, appreciate and profit from. As a result, one of the side effects of the growing desire of people to explore this nation, which case only recently been opened to foreign Visitors thought it has been a boon for the economy.y, has been to change many popular tourist spots for the worse, It’s ironic that the quest to experience the authentic Vietnam has damaged some of it’s communities. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Recently SNV, the Dutch Development Organization, commissioned a study of the responsible tourism market. This unique survey, carried out by Stanford University, revealed some interesting things about the way tourism can be done so that, not only does it benefit all concerned, but also provides a more fulfilling experience to tourists. Applying certain standards to tourism can allow travelers to reconnect with nature and ,come into closer contact with local culture. This way of traveling also ensures that local cultures and ecosystems remain intact. In order to implement responsible travel, however, it is essential that the! private sector, tour operators, travel agencies, even hotels and local businesses are on board. Yet there are a number of reasons that a profit-driven industry may resist change. Often short-term profits trump the idea of social and environmental responsibility.
Nonetheless, a number of businesses in Vietnam. have found that these are not only good altruistic goals, but that they also make good business sense. After all, to ruin the destinations you visit is to poison your own well. The Responsible Travel Club (RTC) is one organization in Vietnam which seems to have gotten the message. Really an affiliation of tour operators, the RT has adopted an admirable code of conduct which pays due respect to both the ecosystems and the cultures of the local areas which they serve. The code of the RTC is in line with the global improvement towards responsible travel. Their aim is to respect these local cultures, their environments and their biodiversity. Anybody who has seen the changes made by tourism in certain places
in Vietnam will immediately recognize the value of this. Yet this is not the only benefit. The founding members of this group arc all from the private sector, and there is a great significance here. This is because, not only does it make sense in a philanthropic way, but it also makes sense for the bottom line. According to the report by SNV, there is a growing market for responsible tourism packages. More and more people want to know that the money they spend while. traveling, the time they spend, does not have a detrimental effect. One of the members of the RTC in Vietnam, Freewheelin’ Tours, specializes in motorbike trips to Vu Linh Lake, which has only recently been considered a destination for tourists.
“Our first and foremost concern is for the people that live there,” says Alain Cabessa, for works at Lavievulinh Resort, teaching the local community English and other skills t t will empower them to take control of their lives and land in a changing world. It’s not pure charity, though. Those who visit Vu Linh are treated to a special experience that is simply not available with the normal, breakfast-included package tours.
For example one of the treks in Vu Linh includes a lesson explaining the various uses, medicinal and other, of herbs that are found around the village. This tour is conducted by an elderly woman from the ethnic minority, Dao Quan Trang, who in.habit the area.
Fredo Binh, owner and operator of Free Wheelin’ Tours, ‘discovered’ Vu Linh while out exploring the country.
The first time I had to go by boat,” he said: “There were no roads. I met the shaman o(the illage and we became friends. Now he’s passed away, but I still work with his family.”
Although this is just one representation of the way responsible tourism can be done, it is a case in point. It represents the code of conduct of the Responsible Travel Club: instead of taking away from destinations it gives back. Local people are empowered instead of exploited, the habitat is respected and preserved, and the traveler has a chance to gain a real experience of the way people live in the place they are visiting.
Coming from the industrialized world, or even from the large urban centers here in Vietnam, we often go to see the areas where there are still remnants of a life that has been lived for hundreds of years. We go to see small villages, ethnic minority areas, state parks. We spend money there. But who does this money go t07 How does it trickle down into the local economy, or does it at all?
In the end, it’s up to the travelers themselves to answer these questions. To travel is somewhat alike to being a guest in someone’s home. Choosing the way we travel is choosing between being a good house guest or a bad one. But this is a two way street. The more travelers are aware of this, the more they respect their hosts, and surely, the more they will find them hospitable.
(Responsible Travel – The Word Hanoi)
by: James Sullivan
publisher: National Geographic, published: 2010
sales rank: 234927
price: $12.99 (new), $12.98 (used)
National Geographic Traveler: Vietnam, 2nd Edition covers all the major sights, from the lovely parks and lakes of Hanoi to the magnificent Ha Long Bay and hill-tribe villages tucked away in jungle-covered mountains. The guide visits all major sites, and lesser known ones as well, including the DMZ, Nguyen tombs, the ancient village of Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta, and Cat Tien, where Jayan rhinoceros, Siamese crocodiles, and many different types of monkeys reside. Go to a water puppet show, take a cooking class in Hoi An, and learn about Hue’s fabulous garden homes.
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