How to Utilise Cultural Heritages for Tourism Development?

12:22:33 AM | 2/11/2015

Vietnam has much potential for tourism development. However, the use of cultural heritages to serve tourism still has many limitations. Vietnam Business Forum interviewed Dr Nguyen Thu Hanh, President of the Scientific Union for Sustainable Tourism Development (STDe) on this issue. Thu Ha reports.
Vietnam has fairly abundant tourism resources, yet many cultural heritages of Vietnam have not been effectively utilised for tourism development. What is the cause of this situation?
Vietnam has quite a lot outstanding and unique tourism potential but in fact, utilisation of tourism resources at the cultural heritages of Vietnam is still facing many limitations and shortcomings. Specifically, Vietnam's cultural heritages have been developing spontaneously and not under any system, thus the development is often fragmented or duplicated. Most products are monotonous, poor, lack identity and cannot meet the diverse needs of domestic and foreign tourists, thus have not brought high revenue. On the other hand, tourism products have not really contributed to preserving and honouring the value of heritages.
The main cause of the above restrictions is that tourism products at cultural heritages in Vietnam have not been sufficiently invested in and developed in a systematic manner with long-term goals and far-reaching strategies at national level. Intersectoral collaboration in the development of tourism products at cultural heritages of Vietnam remains weak; the value of cultural heritages has not been evaluated scientifically and comprehensively; the construction method of tourism products and benefit sharing mechanism at cultural heritage sites have failed to encourage and attract broad participation of the society (particularly the involvement of the people around the heritage sites). On the other hand, knowledge and expertise of the participants in the development of tourism products (managers and planners, businesses, consultants, visitors, community) is limited in many aspects.
What should be done to enhance and promote the role of the community in preserving and promoting heritage value?
Community (locals in heritage areas) is the subject of heritages, as well as responsible for maintaining, protecting and promoting heritages to become attractive tourism products carrying the characteristics of the locality. In other words, community is a very important factor representing the "soul of heritage".
To enhance the role of community in preserving and promoting heritage value, the core issue is to bring practical benefits to the people from the exploitation of heritages, which will change awareness of the people and promote their active participation in the effective and sustainable process of conservation and exploitation of heritages.
The consensus and support of the people is the key to success and determines the feasibility of plans to develop tourism at heritage sites. When benefits come to the people, the preservation and promotion of heritage will be not only the sole task of the State but also socialized by the active participation of the community.
Reportedly, STDe has repeatedly launched “breakthrough in thinking” tourism products with dramatic changes in approaches to the exploitation of value of cultural heritages for tourism development. Can you name some of them?
In the nearly five years since its establishment, STDe has published 15 tourism product sets named "Breakthrough in Thinking", which are widely appreciated for their creativity. Typically:
"Turn rain, storms, floods in the Central Coast into tourism products" project implemented in two World Cultural Heritages: Hue and Hoi An. This project is to change the thinking towards climate change and also the look of heritage value. Instead of "escaping" and "fighting against" the adverse weather factors, the project proposed solutions to "living together in peace" and seeking opportunities from the disadvantages. The project is currently carried out by some tourism enterprises in Hue and Hoi An.
"Darkness Hotel Model" is the hotel model which uses electrical energy to a minimum, yet is able to value the beauty of the shadows to bring travellers completely new experiences, which also creates higher revenue for tourism. The "dark tourism" model is very suitable in cultural heritage sites such as Hoi An and My Son.
"Tourism Products from Straw" project in the ancient village of Duong Lam is aimed to help the people of Duong Lam ancient village utilize the use of straw to make a lot of different tourism products such as motels, souvenirs, fashion, etc. This has helped reduce straw burning, which pollutes the environment, and enhance the efficient exploitation of the value of fields. Currently, STDe is working with the people of Duong Lam to put the project into operation. It is expected to go into operation in April 2015.
"Old-time Vu Dai Village” project is a type of literary tourism combined with village tourism which brings visitors to Vietnamese villages to the late 18th century to have experience with characters and events in literary works of reality writer Nam Cao such as Chi Pheo, Thi No, Ba Kien, etc.
To continue the mission of "Changing the mindset of people in tourism industry in Vietnam", what tourism products does STDe intend to introduce this year?
With a variety of published research projects, it can be asserted that outstanding strength of STDe is "Breakthrough in thinking". This is creative thinking which gets rid of the old ways of thinking (which had become trails) in the previous socio-economic stages.
To further confirm its brand through "Tourism breakthrough" plans, in 2015 STDe will coordinate closely with tourism enterprises to deploy projects including the "Grain season in Duong Lam ancient village" tour, "Legendary Sword Lake" tour and "Bac Lieu Wind" tour.
In particular, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the establishment of STDe (February 10th 2015), we intend to publish a very special tourism product. Please allow me to keep this product a secret, to create a surprise at the event that day.