A network of various world heritage sites across the nation should act as the basis for Viet Nam to develop its tourism sector, helping to turn the country into an attractive tourist centre in Asia.
There should soon be an effective marketing strategy to not only maintain and preserve heritage sites, but to promote sustainable tourism development.
Challenges from heritage tourism
Tourism now plays an important role in Viet Nam’s economy, contributing 5.8% to the nation’s GDP and creating nearly half a million jobs (2.4% of total employment in Viet Nam) and more than 50% of the total service sector exports.
According to the World Tourism Organisation, in the past ten years, international tourists to Viet Nam annually have increased by an average of 8.9%. The increase of domestic tourists was even higher, at more than 10. 2%.
Over 70% of international visitors to Viet Nam came with the intention of exploring the unique national culture through tours to heritage sites, especially World Heritage Sites. “This affirms the role of heritage sites to the development of the tourism industry”, said Tran Mai Anh, a senior editor of Viet Nam Airlines’ in-flight Heritage magazine.
It can be confirmed that preserving and maintaining heritage value is a ‘gold mine’ for the tourism industry with enormous growth potential. The recognition of World Heritage Sites in Viet Nam is always of great importance to the development of national and international-scale tourist spots, as well as acting as a driving force in the tourism sector.
However, the rapid increase in the number of visitors seems to challenge the development of the tourism industry. Studies have shown that the large number of international tourists to Viet Nam combined with an increase in domestic tourism development, were evidence of out-of-control growth of the tourism industry causing adverse effects to destinations, especially to national and world heritage sites.
Pham Thi Thanh Huong, an official from the UNESCO representative office in Viet Nam said: “Viet Nam is currently engrossed in promoting the value of destinations, especially heritage destinations and seems to neglect the task of preserving and protecting”. This could stem from several reasons but the most significant was the improper appreciation from visitors towards tourism operations.
Tourism promotion sourced from promoting tourists’ role
The first thing to be considered in a strategy to promote world heritage tourism in Viet Nam is the conservation of resources at destinations. In addition, visitors need to be responsible and understand their role while travelling.
According to Huong, Viet Nam could learn from a few models around the world about ‘educating tourists’. For example, at Buckingham Palace in the UK, tourists who directly buy tickets at the site must wait in kilometre-long queues to visit the royal building, while guests purchasing tickets online can go straight through.
In this situation, visitors understand that when they come to visit a high value heritage site, they must adhere to regulations and respect the precious sites the guides and authorities are maintaining every day. Doing so is like a microcosm of effective tourism marketing – it meets the expectations of tourists while confirming and protecting the value of the destination.
Sustainable promotion and development of Viet Nam heritage sites requires an extensive and specific campaign. With a goal of turning Viet Nam into a must-visit destination in Southeast Asia, campaigns should focus on tourism brand values, national and world heritage sites, and promoting Viet Nam heritage tourism to Asia, Europe and North America markets.
It is necessary to ensure that heritage sites are the preferred holiday destinations for Vietnamese people so local tourists can act as cultural ambassadors to international friends.
David Robinson from QUO, a communications agency for travel, tourism and hospitality, suggested that Viet Nam clearly define its target tourists and key markets if the country wants to effectively carry out the promotional campaigns mentioned above. Development strategies for heritage tourism must target tourist groups with high spending and long-term stays as these are the majority of visitors who have particular interests in heritage tourism with their available background knowledge. The key to success is to constantly improve product quality to meet the expectations of the market and further promote destination management, especially professionalism at heritage sites.
Challenges from the advantages in potential of heritage tourism development in Viet Nam are quite large, but there are also advantage as the sector is in its inception. Learning from successful models around the world could help Viet Nam heritage promotion campaigns be more effective, not only in tourism revenues but also in preservation and promotion of cultural values.
Source: Nhan Dan Online