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Nov 26, 2021 / 13:16

Post-pandemic tourism: harnessing the value of cultural heritages

Fostering national tourism based on cultural values and available heritage is considered an effective solution for the sector to overcome challenges after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vietnam has always been an attractive destination for international travelers in recent years thanks to its rich culture and diversified identity as well as owning various UNESCO cultural heritages, said Chairman of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Nguyen Trung Khanh.

Making a speech at the 2021 National Cultural Conference that took place in Hanoi on November 24, Khanh said harnessing culture not only brings economic benefits to the localities but also helps the country raise its influence and spread Vietnamese cultural values to the world.

He believes that nothing but the unique traits of culture will make one nation or locality distinguished from others. There are many localities in Vietnam that manage to exploit and promote the value of traditional culture to attract travelers.

Chairman of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Nguyen Trung Khanh. Photo: VNAT

Culture is a “resource that never runs out”

He also stressed that the Resolution of the Politburo on developing tourism into a spearhead economic sector clearly states that “In the process of development, Vietnam tourism must focus on preserving and promoting cultural heritage and traditional values of the nation.”

In addition, the “Strategy to develop Vietnam’s tourism to 2030” which was approved by the Prime Minister also emphasized that “tourism development must go hand in hand with preserving and promoting the value of heritage, enhancing the cultural identity of the nation”.

In fact, many provinces have successfully developed tourism based on exploiting the value of their existing tangible and intangible heritage. Khanh gave examples of a number of tourism products associated with heritages that have become “brands” of the provinces and attract many tourists every year such as Tours to visit Complex of Hue’s Monuments, Hoi An Ancient Town, My Son Sanctuary, Trang An Landscape Complex; tours taking visitors to participate in traditional and contemporary festivals of Perfume Pagoda, Yen Tu Mountain, Ba Chua Xu Temple, Hue Festival, among others.

Hoi An Ancient Town, Quang Nam Province. Photo: Best Price Travel

“Honoring the value of traditional culture would contribute to the development of tourism,” he stated.

According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, after being honored as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, the number of visitors to Hoi An Ancient Town and My Son Sanctuary (Quang Nam Province) in 2000 increased by four times compared to the previous year.

During the 10 years from 2002 to 2012, the number of international visitors to the places increased about 14 times, bringing a great revenue for the locality. Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2018, Hoi An welcomed 2.3 million visitors, of them, two million were foreign travelers; while of the 375,000 visitors to My Son Sanctuary, roughly 335,000 were foreigners.

Some other localities had also earned huge income from tourism. In 2018, Ha Long Bay (Quang Ninh Province) welcomed 4.1 million visitors, earning VND1,184 billion (US$52.7m); Trang An – Bai Dinh Landscape Complex (Ninh Binh Province) welcomed 6.25 million visitors, generating an income of VND665.8 billion ($29m); Hue Imperial Citadel welcomed 3.5 million visitors, achieving a tourism revenue of VND375 billion ($16.4m); Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (Quang Binh Province) welcomed 800,000 visitors, bringing in revenue of VND231 billion ($10.1m).

Promoting “creative tourism” based on culture

The Chairman of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism said that in the current context, fostering “creative tourism” based on culture is seen as a solution and an effective direction to help Vietnam’s tourism industry overcome challenges.

The sector should develop new tourism products that increase interaction between tourists and locals, as well as help travelers to immerse themselves more in the local culture.

“It is necessary to create and build up more exclusive tourism products and promote them well. It will help attract more middle and high-end travelers to the country and enhance the competitiveness of Vietnam’s tourism in the global market,” he stated.

 A corner of Ha Long Bay in the northern province of Quang Ninh. Photo: Pham Ha

In order to build these unique tourism products with a rich cultural identity, Khanh suggests tourism policy and holidaymakers should consider the following five notices.

Ensuring the harmony between the task of cultural heritage preservation and tourism development, avoiding over-exploitation of heritages should be the first and foremost goal. “Communities have a very important role in the task of heritage conservation. It is necessary to clearly define their responsibilities, obligations, and rights in exploiting and developing tourism based on heritage values,” according to Khanh.

In addition, when building festival tourism products, relevant units need to respect and protect the diversity and integrity of the available intangible cultural heritages.

Tourism regulators at central and local levels need to carry out the investigation, classification, and assessment of tourism resources in a synchronous manner. Building a “national database” on natural and cultural tourism resources is also a must in the future.

At the same time, it is necessary to have the “General Principles” in building tourism products. A new tourism product must bear the distinctive traits of local culture, containing unique and specific elements that represent a group of people or a region.

Finally, it’s a need for local tourism regulators to develop a “mechanism for coordination and distribution of tourism revenues based on cultural heritage”. “Locals should always be placed in the central position who should be encouraged to be the main actors in tourism activities. Enterprises should act as intermediaries who bring in visitors, capital support, and tourism training to the locals during the process of exploiting available cultural heritage for tourism,” Khanh gave the details.