Sustainable tourism, which is forecasted to be a big trend in the future, is what the global tourism sector aims for. Grasping this trend, the Quang Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the Quang Nam Tourism Association have made efforts to incorporate sustainable values ​​into local tourism development. Recently, the People’s Committee of Quang Nam has also issued an official plan on developing green tourism in Quang Nam, kicking off the first step for the sustainable tourism development orientation of the province.

Destination Review had the opportunity to have a chat with Mr. Phan Xuan Thanh, Chairman of Quang Nam Tourism Association, about the efforts and preparation of the tourism business community in the province to make Quang Nam become a green destination in the future.

Before Covid-19, the tourism industry in Quang Nam developed very well thanks to the tourism brand of Hoi An city and My Son Sanctuary. However, the two destinations are developing in the direction of mass tourism, the number of annual visitors is very large. Quang Nam Tourism Association as well as the businesses community realized that such mass tourism development without suitable solutions can easily lead to many bad consequences in the long run, such as overtourism, or overload of tourism waste discharged into the environment. In fact, Hoi An has already been in this situation. Solving the waste problem by expanding the solid waste treatment plant is not solving the root of the problem.

Therefore, Quang Nam tourism needs to pursue a value with a specific and clear keyword to raise the awareness of people and tourists, thereby aiming to change the target audience but still bring a good source of income for local people, while preserving the heritage and tourism resources of the province. At that time, the association was also thinking about sustainable tourism, but the keyword “sustainable” is still a very wide concept. Green tourism is also based on sustainable tourism, still focusing on 3 main pillars: economy, society, and environment. To develop green tourism, it is necessary to raise the awareness of each business on the issue of regenerating resources, minimizing negative impacts on society and the environment, thereby, changing the awareness of the business community and people on the balance of economic, social, and environmental factors when doing business.

Aware of this orientation, on September 9, 2019, the association organized a seminar on sustainable tourism, with the participation of UNESCO, Travelife and many other NGOs and sustainable tourism organizations. We also invite major travel businesses with experience in sustainable tourism development to share their experiences and future travel trends. From that seminar, the authorities, as well as the local business community, saw the benefits of the green tourism orientation and all agreed that Quang Nam needed such a sustainable orientation to help tourism in the province develop in a more balanced way. Then, the happening of Covid-19 once again affirmed that green tourism is very suitable for the future trend because tourists are more concerned about the environment and tend to choose secondary destinations with more privacy.

Even if the business community wants to change, it is difficult to spread those values to the community without certain policies from the local authority. The tourism industry is an integrated industry, so the authority, businesses, destination management agencies, and the community must share the same thoughts and orientation to facilitate and quickly approach green tourism.

The introduction of this plan is a big motivation for tourism businesses. The voice of the business community, as well as the association, listened to by the local authority is a good thing and shows that the authority is willing to accompany businesses to develop Quang Nam tourism better.

Moreover, the green tourism plan of the province is the legal basis for the association as well as businesses to come up with specific action and implementation plans. The legal basis is a favorable condition for this development path to be accelerated by 40%.

As a hub for the businesses community, the association sets environmental and social benefits as the goal and takes a leading role, and regularly organizes seminars to show businesses that green tourism is a potential direction in the future, which can bring economic benefits to businesses. If they realized that this trend can bring a good and potential tourist market, tourism businesses are not conservative, but very keen and ready to change.

In addition, to develop green tourism, it is necessary to have a specific set of sustainability criteria. The association has worked with some NGOs and got consultancy from the Swiss Sustainable Tourism Program (SSTP) on the international values and developed sets of criteria for green tourism based on local factors. There are 6 sets of criteria for small and medium-sized hotels, eco-resorts, tour operators, homestays, attractions, and community-based tourism with appropriate focuses.

For example, the set of criteria for hotels will focus on solid waste, wastewater, and electricity. The association connects with environmental organizations to consult on this issue and obtain technical support resources. Thereby, the association has connected with businesses, established small groups to guide and train businesses on garbage classification, recycling, and replacing plastic items in hotels with eco-friendly materials. Saying “green tourism development” sounds big, but just starting from very small things can make a difference. Following the waste aspect is how to affect the perception of businesses, then putting clean energy into operation, reducing wastewater, electricity, or changing hotel decoration accessories with those with local values.

Quang Nam has advantages of resources and experiences in tourism. The two great heritages of Hoi An and My Son, and also the Cu Lao Cham – Hoi An Biosphere Reserve, are the great foundations that built the tourism brand as it is today. In addition, Quang Nam also has a long coastline, rivers, and beautiful plains. Thus, Quang Nam has almost enough basement of environmental and cultural resources to develop in a sustainable way. Quang Nam people also have experience in operating tourism activities and interacting with a variety of tourists from domestic to international tourists for more than 30 years which helps them to expand their awareness and experience.

The biggest challenge is how to reconcile the short-term economic benefits and the long-term benefits of this development orientation when interacting with businesses and the community. The Quang Nam tourism business community is also very aware and understands that sustainable development is a must. But it is difficult for them to go alone, so it is essential to create a strong community to change together with a leader to share experiences, helping businesses take the right actions and transform positively.

With the association’s leadership, many businesses are ready to accompany. Before Covid-19, many businesses began to redirect and replace single-use plastic bottles in hotels. But in 2020, Covid-19 occurred and led to the exhaustion of tourism businesses. Currently, 95% of tourism businesses in Quang Nam are still temporarily closed. Therefore, it is very difficult for businesses to adopt the green tourism model. We are now reaching out to businesses that still operate and have enough ability for deployment first.

I think it will not. We develop green tourism which is still based on existing tourism foundations and activities, then the new practices will be applied gradually. Besides, specific and gentle regulations will be required for tourists to follow and accompany the destination. For example, in the past, we all stipulate that tourists visiting temples must dress modestly and they all support this. In the near future, for example, tourists to Hoi An ancient town will be required not to bring single-use plastic things, and there will be activities to encourage them to exchange garbage. The province will take step by step to create habits and awareness, not prohibiting extremes. The important thing is how to apply, step forward, and deploy in a civilized and polite way, guiding tourists to do, not changing suddenly.

We are in the preparing period to restart tourism, but the tourism industry is dependent a lot on government policies and travel restrictions between localities. The association is making a plan to restart tourism following the green and yellow lanes, opening firstly to localities with high vaccination coverage and low infection rate. In addition, Quang Nam has also been approved to pilot welcoming international tourists by the government. However, currently, it is not possible to restart operations in most tourism businesses. So, we implement for businesses that have the ability to participate first with a small number of tourists, then spread to more businesses later. When the tourism industry begins to resume, it is the golden opportunity to introduce “green” values and “green” tourism products that have been cherished in the past time.

It must be affirmed once again that sustainable tourism development is something that the whole world is aiming for. Besides, witnessing the Covid-19 pandemic and issues such as salinity intrusion in the Mekong Delta, and coastal erosion in Hoi An, it can be seen that environmental problems and climate change are very close to us. Therefore, green and sustainable values can attract a certain market at this time, even a large market. It is the clear basis-driven trend, so those who are ahead will have a chance to succeed and become a leader.

Moreover, when developing green tourism, businesses no longer compete on price but on service, ideas, value, and dignity. Such competition can create a healthier market economy. Therefore, I always hope and believe that once the foundation is established, green tourism will grow very quickly in the future.

Thank you so much for your sharing!

#DestinationStory is a series narrating the stories behind the developing gallops of tourism destinations around the world.

Quang Nam step by step towards a green destination by small changes


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