The city of Hue, Vietnam has a population of 340,000, but each year it welcomes 2.5 million tourists. Tourism represents 48% of the city’s gross domestic product, but also acts as a significant drain on natural resources. The government of Vietnam has begun searching for ways to make tourism sustainable and ecologically clean, without harming the tourism industry. Sustainable tourism is essential for maintaining Vietnam’s economy for generations to come.
The Hue Centre for International Cooperation, the municipality of Chiang Mai, Thailand, and the Asian Institute of Technology began research on ‘Sustainable Tourism through Low Carbon Initiatives’ funded by the Sustainable Mekong Research Network and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. The project sought to assess greenhouse gas emissions from Hue, Vietnam by sector, and to develop strategies for reducing GHGs while growing job opportunities. The City of Hue created multi-stakeholder partnerships to explore green-growth strategies. Some of the most successful strategies included human-powered alternative transport, garden houses, and promoting ‘eco-tourism’. Several lessons learned and enabling practices for this program include:
- Developing a viable business model with stakeholders. One example from the program was the development of garden houses. Garden houses are a cultural relic from the Vietnam monarchy. These properties are essentially large houses built with an integrated garden. Many have been in disrepair, but public resources such as loan guarantees were provided to repair and refurbish them. Garden houses: increased tourism, provided sources of produce and income for the owners, and employed locals to tend the gardens. Creating strategies that were essentially ‘win-win’ by both reducing emissions and increasing income was essential for this program.
- Fostering administrative reform. Before this program, the city of Hue had policies for conservation. But an updated policy included not just conserving resources, but also biodiversity and cultural values. This shift helped to underpin a longer-term conservation program with increased stakeholder buy-in.
- Building public-private partnerships. NGOs had already been providing self-reliance and seed capital to Hue. By building supportive policy structures, regulations were changed to make private green endeavors more successful, such as publicly providing loans and policy for human-powered transport that could then be filled by private vendors.
- Generating positive spin-offs. The expansion of green programs and urban gardens led to several restaurants being opened that purchased food grown within the city. Effective conservation programs can lead to economic growth for new industries that were not originally considered.