Preserving and promoting World Heritage Sites in Vietnam

                           Trang An Tourism Complex in Ninh Bình province

Vietnam is a country of tourism. From the North to the South, any provinces has its own advantages to attract visitors. Among thousands of interesting places in Vietnam, there are a total of 7 World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO, including Halong Bay, Phong Nha Ke Bang, Hue Complex of Monuments, Hoi An Ancient Town, My Son Sanctuary, Thang Long Imperial Citadel, Ho Dynasty Citadel.

And, recently, on June 23, we were delighted to know that the Trang An Tourism Complex in the northern province of Ninh Binh was officially included in the world heritage list by the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. With the acknowledgement, the Trang An complex has become Vietnam’s 8th cultural and natural heritage site recognised by the UNESCO. The recognition is based on the principles of the Convention on the Protection of World Culture and Natural Heritages including cultural, aesthetical, and geological-geomorphic values and the preservation of heritage.

Covering an area of nearly 2,000 hectares, Trang An consists of three conjunctional sites: the Hoa Lu ancient citadel, Trang An-Tam Coc-Bich Dong natural scenic site, and the Hoa Lu primeval forest. The complex is often called Vietnam's Ha Long Bay on land.

The turbulent movement of earth crust of hundreds of million years ago has endowed Ninh Binh with a unique nature of labyrinth of cave, mountain, lake, and historical relics. The site boasts 47 historical relics with numerous caves inside stunning limestone karst mountain ranges. The lyric and picturesque landscape of Trang An is a harmonic combination of mountain, valley, and system of lakes. Trang An features various caves that have undergone impacts of time and weather, decorating with unique shape of stalactites and stalagmites. The system of interconnected cave comprises 30 valleys, each is a amazing picture of mountains, rivers and nature in general. Not only serving as a cradle of civilisation of ancient Vietnamese, Trang An also used to house the first capital of the Vietnamese feudal and independent state, Hoa Lu, more than 1,000 years ago. Its rugged landscape provided a favourable location for a secure and easily defended citadel. Moreover, Trang An owns diverse ecological system. It is surrounded by primary forests with variety of floral and fauna systems including 310 types of tracheophyta, many kinds of fungi, moss and algae, some rare trees like Dalbergia tonkinensis, Chukrasia tabularis, Burretiodendron hsienmu, over 30 animals, 50 types of birds, reptiles, especially rare animals like Capricornis sumatraensis, Neofelis nebulosa, white chest gibbon, Buceros bicornis.

As we know, World cultural and natural heritage sites in Vietnam have made great contributions to socio-economic development, particularly in localities where the sites are located. And these Heritage Sites help Vietnam a lot in earning tourists through years and constitute a major tourism resource. while no official statistics are available, the recognition of a world heritage site is almost always followed by a fast increase in the number of tourists. According to UNESCO statistics, more than 1 billion tourists visit world natural and cultural heritage sites each year. Vietnam currently has seven world heritage sites, which are the complex of monuments in the ancient imperial city of Hue, Ha Long Bay, My Son Sanctuary, Hoi An ancient town, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, the central sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi and the Ho Dynasty Citadel. Ha Long Bay and Hue welcome an average 2 million visitors each year now, while 1.5 million visited Hoi An last year. Other heritage sites also saw crowds of tourists, contributing to local development.

However, the rising number of visitors also poses threats to heritage sites in terms of environmental pollution. Ha Long Bay and the Hue monument complex were once put in the list of world heritage sites in danger. Hue was out of the list in 2013, while Ha Long Bay is under inspections by UNESCO experts in order to be considered for removing from the list this June. The seminar also heard that Vietnam has received substantial assistance from UNESCO and international organisations in preserving its world heritage sites. However, experts noted that the country has not been able to get the community involve in conservation work. They called for appropriate policies to encourage all economic sectors, organisations and individuals to invest in this field.

In the coming years, besides mentioned-above things, to make the world heritage sites in our country better serve the development, we should focus on the following points: Strengthening cooperation among central and local levels and branches, firstly between tourism and conservation of cultural heritage to create the actual sustainable development of tourism.

Enhancing cooperation in the field of human resources training, in parallel with training the professional staffs. We should have training plans and professional attitudes towards heritage, visitors providing for staffs and the local people and other participants in the tourism such as travel sellers, local residents, taxi driver, free tour guider etc… to truly create sustainable tourism activities in the World Heritage areas.

Concentrating investments in key areas for the preservation, restoration, rehabilitation of physical relics; research, documentation and recovery of intangible cultural heritage in world heritage areas. We should also have strategic investment to maintain some prominent crafts and festivals, performing arts in the h eritage areas.

Closely coordinate between sectors as transportation, aviation, construction, labor - invalids and society, police, fisheries... and local agencies to ensure cleab environment in heritage world areas (both in the natural environment and social environment). Creating a stable, sustainable heritage and the safety of visitors and tourists, avoiding overlaps and inefficiencies. /.

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