Bach Ma Tourism Development: Quality and Nature Conservation in Focus

10:10:32 AM | 11/10/2020

Bach Ma is a pristine natural forest with a cool climate, beautiful landscape and rich flora and fauna. It not only has great value for natural conservation and scientific research, but also has great potential for ecotourism development. Dr. Nguyen Vu Linh, Director of Bach Ma National Park, said: Recognizing the treasured value of Bach Ma, in addition to many conservation and protection measures in the past, Bach Ma National Park has developed quality-focused tourism and actively conserved nature.

Bach Ma National Park is one of six centrally administered national parks, covering 37,487 ha in Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam provinces. Being the heart of the only existing strip of natural green forests of Vietnam connecting the East Sea to the Vietnam-Laos border, Bach Ma National Park is also the intersection point of two climatic regions - North and South. The terrain varies from the lowland to the altitude of 1,712 meters; it thus features a very high biodiversity. Since its establishment (1991), the national park has launched various protection and conservation activities and rationally tapped this precious resource. The Management Board has informed local people and visitors of forest protection in the buffer zone; boosted the application of SMART Mobile tools in forest patrol and protection and biodiversity monitoring; and worked closely with local authorities to protect resources and develop livelihoods for people living in the buffer zone.

In the early years of the 21st century, the Thua Thien Hue Provincial People’s Committee allowed some organizations and enterprises to renovate old French villas and invest in some works to develop tourism services, but this approach was ineffective for many reasons. In 2016, supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Thua Thien Hue Provincial People's Committee conducted a survey and plan for ecotourism development, mentored by some foreign consultants. The proposed plan will develop seven tourist subdivisions on a 300-ha site on the top of Bach Ma Mountain and a 100-ha foothill area, services and a 4-km cable line to serve tourists. Bach Ma is expected to welcome 500,000 visitors a year in 2020 - 2030 and 1 million visitors in 2030. However, when the planning was consulted at the scientific conference in October 2018, it was controversial. Tourism businesses expected a high-class product for Hue tourism. Planners and architects gave comments on architecture, construction density and cable cars. Nature conservation experts were concerned about the endurance of the fragile and fragile ecosystem of Bach Ma mountains. To date, the planning has not yet been approved and the Provincial People's Committee is seeking an alternative that meets the spirit of the Politburo's Resolution 54-NQ/TW dated December 10, 2019 on Thua Thien Hue construction and development to 2030, with a vision to 2045. For Bach Ma, it is “Sustainably and effectively utilizing the potential of Bach Ma National Park by conserving and sustainably developing forest resources, biodiversity conservation combined with ecotourism development”.

Hence, tourism development in Bach Ma is necessary but nature conservation and biodiversity protection must be paid attention to. Tourism in Bach Ma must follow true ecotourism criteria and requirements, with quality placed above tourism product and quantity. For a simple comparison, instead of serving 10 guests spending VND200,000 each, we only need to serve five spending VND2 million each. Tourism in Bach Ma not only satisfies normal enjoyments for tourists like sightseeing, food and accommodation, but also offers them classier experiences in the rainiest tropical jungle in Vietnam like living in the forest, listening to birds singing, watching flowers blooming and enjoying the atmosphere of a primeval forest.

Bach Ma mountain and forest area is a national park assigned by the State with an important task of preserving nature and a valuable ecosystem and world-class biodiversity values.

Prof. Nguyen Ngoc Lung, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Forest Management

Therefore, to develop Bach Ma ecotourism, we need to focus on quality rather than quantity. First of all, it is necessary to determine physical, biological and psychological features of Bach Ma - Determine the "threshold" for the maximum number of visitors that Bach Ma can endure without harming nature and the environment. This requires highly qualified experts to research and decide (objectively) the number of visitors a day/month/season/year for Bach Ma and types of products designed for the area and target audience. After that, it will serve as a basis for planning the space and area used for accommodation, traffic and infrastructure to ensure the efficiency and sustainability of economic benefits, social equality and environmental preservation.

Currently, the Thua Thien Hue Provincial People’s Committee issued Decision 1336/QD-UBND dated June 8, 2020 on revising the construction planning of Bach Ma Ecotourism Zone, assigned the Department of Construction to lead this project. This is a very good opportunity for Bach Ma National Park to unify planning concepts of Bach Ma Peak to include in the Bach Ma National Park Ecotourism Development Plan and incorporate in the Plan for Sustainable Forest Management of Bach Ma National Park in 2021-2030 to submit to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for approval (expected by the end of 2020). According to the Law on Forestry and other legal documents, after the Sustainable Forest Management Plan is approved by the ministry, Bach Ma National Park will be responsible for developing an ecotourism development project in line with the Sustainable Forest Management Plan and submitting it to the ministry. When the ecotourism development project is made, it needs multi-stakeholder consultation before submitting to the ministry for approval (expected in 2021). Bach Ma National Park is then widely announced to invite individuals and organizations interested in investment projects in approved areas in the form of cooperation, association or environmental lease for ecotourism service.

As such, we still need professional planning consultants to advise on the formulation of the ecotourism development project in Bach Ma National Park in 2021-2030 to serve as a development foundation for the true ecotourism model in Bach Ma. At the same time, after the project is approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, we expect investors with enough financial potential, ecotourism management expertise, and most importantly, enough enthusiasm and resolve, to do something for a greener Bach Ma tomorrow.

Ecotourism is very picky about tourists because it must place nature conservation on top. Bach Ma requires minimizing impacts of waste and noise, which are always inevitable consequences of mass tourism. Thus, Bach Ma tourism cannot be mass tourism, but high-class ecotourism.

Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, Director of the Institute for Tourism Development Research, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT)

Source: Vietnam Business Forum