Ha Giang Sets Long-Term and Far-Sighted Vision for Sustainable Tourism Development

1:35:01 PM | 14/8/2018

Since the Vietnam-Belgium cooperation project in the Dong Van Plateau, Ha Giang province, was initiated in the second half of 2000, there has been a big change in the attitudes and thinking of Ha Giang’s authority and people with regard to promoting heritage values, leading to their determination to build Dong Van plateau Geological Park on September 9, 2009, in an attempt to bring it to join the Global Geopark Network (GGN), so as to promote the heritage values; improve social-economic life of the province, contribute to hunger elimination and poverty reduction, and build a beautiful and lasting Dong Van Plateau.

Since October 1, 2010 or just over a year later, Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark officially joined GGN, becoming the first geological park in Vietnam and the second one in South East Asia.

Since becoming the first global geopark in Vietnam, Dong Van Karst Plateau UNESCO Global Geopark was regarded by conservationists as a new model for the development of geoparks in the world. It means that a geological park can be built in places where the educational level and economic status of local people remained low and underdeveloped, and their tourism industry still leaves much to be desired, or in other words, it will not necessarily be built in localities where the tourism industry has already developed, as in European countries.

Mr Guy Martini, GGN’s General Secretary, hoped that Ha Giang would be a model to develop geoparks which offer better opportunities in both conservation and development for the locality.

For the last eight years since its Global Geopark has taken shape, Ha Giang province proved that they have made a correct decision. In general, much progress has been made in terms of the awareness of the local people concerning the protection of the environment, natural resources, culture, geomorphology and geology of the region.

The economy, especially the tourism industry, has experienced miraculous growth, raising the number of over 30,000 visitors in 2010 to more than 1 million visitors to Ha Giang in 2017, contributing greatly to poverty alleviation, improving the quality of people’s life in the northernmost province of Vietnam, and along with services sector, agricultural production, construction and investment; the prestige and image of Ha Giang province have become known domestically and internationally.

The success of Ha Giang province has encouraged and motivated quite a few provinces and cities to follow. Dozens of provinces and cities have worked out their master plans to build national-level geoparks in an attempt to move forward to an application for admission to GGN. It is worth mentioning that Cao Bang, a province that borders Ha Giang province, has recently become the second global geopark in Vietnam. Ha Giang has also taken the lead in organising the first conference on the establishment of the national geopark network (VGN) in Vietnam in 2016, organising the first Geographical Park Fair in 2017, and actively participating in the Subcommittee for National Geographical Park.

In terms of international cooperation Dong Van Karst Plateau Unesco Global Geopark has fully participated in the official activities of GGN, such as the Asia-Pacific Geopark Network (APGN); human resource training courses organized by GGN and APGN; or actively involved in consultations and co-operation with a series of regional geoparks; in GGN global programmes such as website development, video broadcasting, Earth Day, Disaster Prevention Day, reforestation, and promotion programmes of festivals, culture, geographical tourism development.

Dong Van Karst Plateau Unesco Global Geopark will soon be re-evaluated for the second time. This will be a milestone to acknowledge the achievements resulting from the efforts of Ha Giang province for the past 8 years to work for a better life for the local people and for sustainable development.

New tasks ahead
Apart from the results we have achieved as mentioned above in sustainable development of tourism, poverty reduction, protection and promotion of geological, natural and cultural heritage, values that we can be proud of, there are still quite a few shortcomings and weaknesses that need to be tackled, in other words there is still much to be desired, that is why have to formulate a long-term and far-sighted vision with specific tasks to fulfil as follows.

1. Although much progress in conservation has been made; there are still shortcomings and weaknesses that need to be overcome, such as an illegal and messy exploitation of rocks, invasion of foreign material and immaterial culture. And it should be borne in mind that it is necessary to raise public awareness about values of geological and cultural heritage, that once they are lost, they can hardly be recovered. Consequently, the preservation of heritage requires the mobilisation of the entire political system and local communities. With this determination, we are required to preserve this valuable asset for our younger generations.

2. The strategy for the tourism industry in Ha Giang province should focus on developing the ecological-geographical-cultural links, on targeting places of interest with high quality, improving high and stable incomes and tourism would be regarded as breadwinners of local people and a solution to the hunger eradication and poverty reduction.

3. The infrastructure system needs to be given due attention, so as to ensure a friendly environment, green growth and sustainable development.

4. Revenues from tourism development need to be distributed fairly to relevant sides, with priority being given to the local people.

5. Human resource training, especially for direct and indirect tourism personnel, needs to be strengthened. An effective public education strategy is a major task in the coming period.

6. Investment of enterprises, especially local enterprises, into tourism should be encouraged, in which local, small and medium enterprises should be given priority with support from the provincial authorities.
Long-term and far-sighted vision for a bright future

With a long-term perspective, leaders of Ha Giang province regard Dong Van Karst Plateau Global Geopark as a centre to link East-West to North-South Corridor. And with the East-West Corridor, Dong Van Karst Plateau Global Geopark will link Lao Cai, Sapa in the west via localities owning a very unique geological and cultural landscape: Hoang Su Phi and Xin Man Districts in Ha Giang province. West of Ha Giang, through Bac Me district which is rich in ecological and geological resources, is UNESCO Non Nuoc Cao Bang Global Geopark. More broadly speaking, Ha Giang should serve as the link of the two key tourism areas of North-East and North-West region.

In order to implement this, Ha Giang has coordinated with leading GGN – UNESCO experts, McKinsey- an American worldwide management consulting firm, and Fulbright University, to map out orientations and overall master plan for sustainable development of tourism industry. In the future, tourism in Ha Giang province will achieve the quality of a UNESCO Global Geological Park.

Ha Giang will do everything possible to lift “ barriers” to facilitate travellers to visit Dong Van Plateau UNESCO Global Geopark, such as suggesting to the Government concerning the building of a highway connecting Hanoi - Lao Cai to Ha Giang province to shorten travel time for visitors; streamlining administrative procedures for tourists and investors; and strengthening visitor information system.

Nguyen Van Son
Chairman of Ha Giang People's Committee