The recognition of world cultural and natural heritage sites has considerably contributed to the economic growth of each locality, helping generate jobs for thousands of workers. However, the conservation and management of recognised sites has revealed many limitations, the Vietnam Economic News reported.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Dang Thi Bich Lien said that world cultural and natural heritage sites in Vietnam not only have spiritual values but also serve as important resources for sustainable socio-economic development.

Data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) show that more than 1 billion tourists visit cultural heritage sites each year.

In Vietnam, world cultural and natural heritage sites have contributed to rapid increases in the number of tourists to localities, bringing in considerable economic benefits. Ha Long Bay or relics in the old capital of Hue attracted just several thousand tourists annually in the past, but now they attract more than 2 million visitors each year, earning hundreds of billions of dong from the sale of entrance tickets.

Statistics show that the Hoi An Old Quarter received 1.5 million tourists in 2013, earning 65 billion VND from ticket sales. The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s tourism revenue reached 23.6 billion VND last year while the My Son relics earned over 20 billion VND.

Obviously, world cultural and natural heritage sites have considerably contributed to promoting the development of the tourism and service sectors as well as the economic growth of localities and the community economy. Therefore, many localities have listed world heritage sites among key factors fostering their long-term development.
However, the lack of coordiantion is a big problem related to the management of world heritage sites in Vietnam. Notably, the overlapping management between different ministries and sectors has made it difficult to deal with problems which arise from practice.

Nguyen The Hung, Director of the Agency for Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that stipulations and regulations on the management, conservation and enhancement of world cultural and natural heritage sites in Vietnam remained inadequate and inconsistent.

So are policies and mechanisms applied to manage and utilise heritage sites. Some heritage sites such as Hoi An and My Son have not worked out master plans for heritage management based on the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the 1972 World Heritage Convention. Some other heritage sites such as the Thang Long Imperial Citadel and relics in the Old Capital of Hue have yet to put in place suitable regulations pertaining to the management, conservation and enhancement of heritage sites.

Le Trung Hoa, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Duy Xuyen district, Quang Nam province, is a member of the My Son Management Board of Relics and Tourism. He said that the management of heritage sites has revealed the overlap between the district and higher levels in the fields of international cooperation, project preparation and appeal for investment.

Sharing this opinion, a representative of the Management Board of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park said that the park was managed by the People’s Committee of Quang Binh province. However, operations of the park’s management board are simultaneously managed by the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism. “This takes us too much time to deal with arising problems,” he added.

The lack of coordination in management has led to some other problems. Specifically, the coordination between management boards/centres and state authorities from relevant sectors in dealing with problems which arise from practice remains loose; localities where world heritage sites are situated still apply different regulations in managing and using incomes from tourism services. Their expenditure on tourism also shows differences between one province and another.

Deputy Minister Lien said that the only solution to all these problems is clarifying the responsibilities of management authorities at each level and maintaining their effective coordination. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will check and make necessary supplements and adjustments to existing regulations in this field.

Pham Thuy Duong, head of the Management Board of Ha Long Bay, said that as a world natural heritage site, Ha Long Bay had significantly contributed to the development of Quang Ninh province.
However, to bring into play the values of this heritage site so that it can better contribute to promoting socio-economic development of Quang Ninh province and create a fulcrum for the tourism sector of the whole country, in the time to come, the Management Board of Ha Long Bay will continue its efforts to conserve and enhance the bay’s values in a sustainable manner, seriously following recommendations of the World Heritage Committee and the World Heritage Convention.

The board has pledged to conserve the integrity and outstanding universal value of the heritage site to appeal for the international community’s support for its conservation efforts.

Nguyen Chi Trung from the Hoi An Centre for Cultural Heritage Management and Conservation - one of the most successful units in the field of heritage conservation - said that in the process of managing, conserving and bringing into play the values of heritage sites, it was necessary to identify and preserve specific values of relics and heritage sites in each locality because economic losses can be recovered but cultural and natural heritage can hardly be restored once they are infringed.

He added that in 2014, the People’s Committee of Quang Nam province would submit to the Prime Minister a proposal for a special funding mechanism for Hoi An so that it could develop component projects of the master plan for conservation and enhancement of the Hoi An World Cultural Heritage in combination with urban and tourism development in the period from 2012-2025. The implementation of this plan will help Quang Nam province conserve and enhance in a sustainable manner the values of Hoi An as a world cultural heritage site.-VNA