Vietnam is a fascinating country with many amazing hidden gems, unique experiences, changing landscapes, including very diverse regions and communities. All of the aforementioned makes it a great country for visitors who love adventure, exotic cuisines, heritage sites, history and much more. One thing to keep in mind while visiting the country is that there are many ways and opportunities for lowering your footprint in Vietnam and spreading education. Also, this is actually true of many destinations around Southeast Asia.
Through my travels around Southeast Asia, I experienced many moments where not only locals, but also tourists, did not perform any sustainable tourism practices. In my opinion, there are many modes in which you, as a traveler, can improve sustainable tourism in Vietnam. Here are a few recommendations:
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- 1 How to improve sustainable tourism in Vietnam
- 1.1 1. Consider a Homestay while visiting Vietnam
- 1.2 2. Volunteer to help clean up beaches and other areas
- 1.3 3. Protect Unesco World Heritage Sites and World Wonders, such as Halong Bay in Vietnam
- 1.4 4. Support companies who have sustainable tourism practices
- 1.5 5. Shop with small businesses
- 1.6 6. Support Non-Profit Organizations
- 1.7 7. Lead by example
- 1.8 8. Wildlife conservation
- 1.9 9. Use public transportation as much as possible
- 1.10 10. Practice good social manners as well
How to improve sustainable tourism in Vietnam
1. Consider a Homestay while visiting Vietnam
A homestay is a great opportunity to get involved since, you are not only immersing yourself in the culture, you are also contributing to the economy, and even the education, of a family directly. I remember staying in a homestay in Sa Pa and seeing how a mom was not only supporting her children, from opening up her home, but also providing a real-life educational experience. She was so happy that they could practice English with a foreigner, while also meeting people of different cultural backgrounds. This is a small way in which you can contribute directly to truly changing peoples’ lives.
NOTE: On many occasions, it is a win-win situation because you do not get these kinds of experiences by staying in a regular hotel and, most of the time, you save money since it is a more affordable option.
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2. Volunteer to help clean up beaches and other areas
There are many initiatives around Vietnam, and in many other destinations in Southeast Asia, where you can join teams to clean up beaches, and other areas, which are affected by a combination of bad habits of the locals and/or tourists, and sometimes can also result from over-tourism. Whatever the reason, this is a great opportunity for you to give of your own time to help improve and conserve the environment. Don’t just avoid being a part of the problem, be a part of the solution too!
3. Protect Unesco World Heritage Sites and World Wonders, such as Halong Bay in Vietnam
Halong Bay is on most people’s bucket list. A World Wonder of Nature, a fascinating place to visit, which gets so much tourism every year, it’s susceptible to eventually disappearing if not actively protected. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been (and I want to keep it that way!), so we as visitors should take care of it, as much as locals and companies should too.
4. Support companies who have sustainable tourism practices
Environmental conservation is the main reason why I always prefer to support companies who have sustainable tourism practices. For example, one that I found that’s doing so very impressively in Vietnam is Bhaya Cruises. They are one of the leaders practicing sustainable tourism in Halong Bay – the UNESCO World Heritage Site since the beginning of their company’s inception in 2007. Through innovative cruise designs, and a program of annual renovations to keep its ships meeting very high safety criteria, Bhaya sets the standard for Halong Bay cruises. Visit their site to learn more about the sustainable programs they have to help local communities and wildlife conservation in the area: Save the Langur, Bhaya Community, Bhaya Care, and Bhaya Green. They inspire me to lower my carbon footprint on the environment, not just in Vietnam, but world-wide!
My recommendation is for you to research companies before booking with them, and support those with sustainable practices in place. A little homework and good practices can go a long way.
5. Shop with small businesses
As amazing as big shopping malls are, what about shopping from small businesses such as local boutiques, artists, artisans, etc. They put so much effort into their work, and you can often find many more unique pieces there (than at a mall where items are mass produced), while at the same time giving back to a family or community.
6. Support Non-Profit Organizations
I found many non-profit organizations in Vietnam which offer walking tours led by students. Oftentimes, women who do not have as access to resources, or lack money for education, can support themselves by making handcrafted soaps, making teas, art, or learning how to become a massage therapist… Whatever the case, you can support these organizations, who donate their profits to women’s groups for single mothers or abused women, by joining their tours, buying products from them or even making a separate donation. Great way for your money to go a long way!
7. Lead by example
There is nothing more rewarding than leading by example. Take the time to find a trash can where you can throw or dispose of your garbage. And, along the way, if you see a bottle on the beach, pick it up and toss it out at the same time. There are many sustainable ways where you can contribute to keep a clean environment in Vietnam: Avoid the use of plastic bags, try to carry a reusable tote with you; if you can carry a filtered water bottle too, that’s great. Every little effort can make a big difference overall.
Don’t forget to share your sustainable travel tips and experiences with your family, friends, co-workers, anyone who will listen to you! Plus, you never know who is watching; you might inspire others to follow in your footsteps.
8. Wildlife conservation
There are many endangered species in Vietnam which we can help conserve. Joining or volunteering for the right practices, or visiting real sanctuaries and not contributing to the harm of any animal is another way where we can become responsible travelers while traveling around Vietnam (or any other place, for that matter). Don’t forget to never purchase products made from wildlife.
9. Use public transportation as much as possible
Taxis may be cheap, but there are many ways to travel around Vietnam. There are overnight sleeper trains that are very comfortable, although will cost more than buses (which might be cheaper, but can also be uncomfortable and slow). You can also consider taking an internal flight, which is the fastest, but then you’ll miss seeing the countryside.
Recommended: A sleeper train experience in Vietnam
One aspect of sustainable travel, beyond environmental, includes being more socially aware. Some of these may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at some of the bad habits I’ve witnessed by tourists all over the world. For example, learn more about the culture of the people and be respectful of their beliefs. Also, be mindful before photographing a local; sometimes it’s better to ask for permission. Lastly, it helps if you can learn a few words in the Vietnamese language: Thank you, bathroom, help, beer…whichever words you believe will help you, make a note. They might come in handy when you least expect it.
We can do it together!
Let’s live in the present, enjoy our planet without risking it for future generations. How sad would it be if those same future generations weren’t able to enjoy their environment and struggled to find any natural sites. We need to preserve what we still have by starting with our own neighborhood and taking the same approach when we visit countries around the world, such as Vietnam.
Have you ever been to Vietnam? Share your experience with us. How do you lower your carbon footprint and help improve sustainable tourism in Vietnam, or wherever you go.
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