Balancing tourism development with natural heritage protection
Pham Hong Ha, Chairman of the Ha Long City People's Committee and Head of the Ha Long Bay Management Board.

Ha Long Bay, a World Natural Heritage recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has played a vital role in attracting visitors to Quang Ninh Province. Could you tell us about the growth in the number of visitors to the bay?

Ha Long Bay has been ranked as a top tourist destination by world leading international organizations, media agencies and websites. From 2014-2018, the number of visitors to Ha Long Bay grew an average of 16 percent per year, and reached an estimated 4.4 million (including almost 2.9 million foreign visitors) in 2019, up six percent from the same period in 2018.

Balancing tourism development with natural heritage protection
Ha Long Bay, an increasingly attractive destination to visitors.

What does the Ha Long Bay Management Board do to preserve and bring into play the values of the world natural heritage?

Like managers of many other heritage sites in Vietnam, the Ha Long Bay Management Board has been working to harmonize conservation and development to preserve the integrity and outstanding values of the heritage site. This includes implementation of sustainable development-oriented conservation projects, evaluation of heritage management and environmental protection solutions, minimization of plastic wastes, and formation of aquaculture zones outside the heritage site’s protected areas.

The management board pursues sustainable tourism management and development, diversification of tourist offerings, especially high-class and high-quality ones (including community-based tours, boat tours and tours to fishing villages), assurance of visitor security, and service quality improvement. The management board also attaches importance to scientific research and assessment, including research and evaluation of Ha Long Bay’s capacity as a basis for developing the bay’s protection, preservation and management, and minimizing the negative impact on the heritage site.

Environmental protection in Ha Long Bay is an important task, with its implementation requiring consistent solutions and actions. The management board will continue to strictly manage services on the bay to ensure a safe and healthy business environment, and improve service quality to better serve visitors.

What plans and policies does the management board have to develop green tourism on a sustainable basis?

Ha Long Bay is a world heritage site and authorities always try their best to make the region a pioneer and exemplary model of environmental protection, especially in minimizing the use of plastic bags and materials. Specifically, the management board plans to minimize plastic waste on Ha Long Bay through education and community awareness improvement. It installed dozens of signboards and issued more than 1,000 brochures on plastic bag and material minimization in different tourist sites and cruise harbors, and promoted the information through the media and the Ha Long Bay fan page.

The management board got 233 enterprises and household businesses offering cruise services, 15 kayaking and rowing service providers, 51 aquaculture facilities and all of the board's employees to sign agreements refusing to use disposable plastic products from September 1, 2019. It has proposed that cruise port-based shops and points of sale stop selling disposable plastic products to visitors and provide them with environmentally friendly products.

As a world heritage site and natural wonder, Ha Long Bay plays an important role in turning the northeastern province of Quang Ninh into a modern service and industrial hub and an international tourist center, Pham Hong Ha, Chairman of the Ha Long City People's Committee and Head of the Ha Long Bay Management Board, told Vietnam Economic News.

By Hoa Quynh/Vietnam Economic News