The first ever annual responsible tourism conference was held in the capital city of Hanoi on November 2, discussing challenges on the path to achieve a sustainable growth for the tourism sector of Vietnam.

The event was part of the “Environmentally and Socially Responsible Tourism Capacity Development” programme (ESRT), funded by the European Union.

Head of the National Tourism Administration Nguyen Van Tuan highlighted the significance of the conference with its aim of raising the awareness on responsible tourism development in Vietnam.

The event brought tourism partners together into a course of setting their business targets without producing devastating impacts on the environment and cultural resources, he said.

Dr Ha Van Sieu, Director of the Institute of Tourism Development and Research, warned participants about the threat of mass tourism, which led to uneven development, pollution and the over-exploitation of natural and cultural resources.

Meanwhile, Katherine Muller-Marin, a representative from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), said more efforts should be made to ensure that “tourism benefits can also be reinvested to preserve heritage sites.”

The concept of a sustainable tourism sector, first introduced in the nation’s tourism development strategy three years ago, aims to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of tourism while minimising the costs to destinations.

According to the ESRT, tourism continues to achieve strong growth in Vietnam with total foreign arrivals during the first nine months of the year reaching 4.8 million. This reflects growth of 13 percent over the same period last year, despite the global economic slowdown.

The programme, worth 12.1 million EUR, is the largest one to support the tourism sector in Vietnam and is implemented between 2011-2015.-VNA