The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) held a recent seminar in Ha Long city, the northern province of Quang Ninh, to discuss measures for boosting spiritual tourism in the northeastern coastal region.

VNAT Director Nguyen Van Tuan said spiritual tourism is picking up in Vietnam and elsewhere, which is contributing to the preservation and promotion of religious and traditional cultural values.

In Vietnam, many tourists have a specific purpose in mind when they travel, he noted. According to VNAT statistics, 41.5 percent of domestic tourists choose destinations with a spiritual significance, while only 12 percent of foreign choose their destinations with spiritualism in mind.

Meanwhile, Hoang Thi Ha, Chairwoman of the People’s Committee of Quang Ninh’s Uong Bi city, said the development of a spiritual tourism route in the region relies on regional localities taking responsibility.

Highlighting the lack of skilled labour and professional tourism services, as well as poor linkages between localities, she proposed that all localities of the region should not only improve their own tourism plans but also develop joint regional plans and continue to attract investment in the sector.

During the event, Prof. I Gede Ardika from the World Tourism Organisation, who is also the former Minister of Tourism of Indonesia, shared Indonesia’s experiences in spiritual tourism development.

Sustainable tourism should focus on optimising the positive effects and minimising the negative impacts on the economy, culture and society, he said. In particular, the development of spiritual tourism should be closely linked to upholding religious norms and cultural values, he said.

Dr. Daniel H. Olsen from Brandon University in Canada emphasised that the spiritual value in general is at risk of being commercialised. In order to prevent this, all relevant parties should carefully and thoroughly consider the use of spiritual destinations and symbols in tourism promotion.

A working group together with travel agencies participated in fact-finding missions to destinations in the northeastern region from August 23-28, including Con Son-Kiep Bac in Hai Duong, Yen Tu-Dong Pagoda, Cua Ong and Cua Suot Temples, and Co To island in Quang Ninh.-VNA