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Sustainable tourism development in Vietnam

(PTOJ) - Tourism is a smokeless industry and a driving force for Vietnam's economic growth in the new stage of development. Vietnam's tourism development strategy through to 2030 emphasizes: The development of tourism in a sustainable manner to become a spearhead economic sector, creating a driving force to promote the development of other industries and fields, contributing to the formation of a modern economic structure. Sustainable tourism development is also one of the focuses in the socio-economic development strategies of many localities, helping to effectively exploit the potential for economic development, realizing the goals of poverty reduction, environmental protection, preservation of cultural values and identities, the assurance of equity and social progress. This article is made within the framework of a scientific research project sponsored by Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank (MB).

Topas Ecolodge ecotourism spot, Lao Cai province - Photo:topasecolodge.com

1. Sustainable tourism development

Sustainable tourism is the development of tourism activities that fully consider both the current and future impact on economics, society and the environment, while meeting the needs of visitors and the development of this industry, as well as meeting the requirements of ecological environment protection and the requirements of the local community. The development of sustainable tourism is concerned with the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, which requires creating the right balance between these three aspects to assure long-term sustainability(1).

Sustainable tourism helps to manage resources to meet the needs of socio-economic development and human enjoyment, while maintaining cultural integrity, biodiversity, and the development of the ecosystems. The concept of sustainable tourism is closely related to the concepts of ecotourism, green tourism, and so on.

In Vietnam, the 2017 Tourism Law defines: “Sustainable tourism development is the development of tourism that simultaneously meets socio-economic and environmental requirements, assuring the harmonization of the interests of the subjects involved in tourism activities, without prejudice to the capacity to meet the demand for tourism in the future”(2).

Sustainable tourism development includes the following three basic topics:

(1) Maintaining a reasonable, stable and continuously high growth rate of the tourism economy

The growth rate of the tourism industry needs to be set at an appropriate level, based on the actual conditions, to meet the requirements of promoting the growth of the tourism industry, and at the same time not creating negative impact on tourism resources and the environment. Accordingly, the growth of the tourism economy does not exceed the renewable capacity of resources, the capacity of tourism facilities and the local social capacity to meet the needs of tourists. The tourism industry is getting better and better, with tourism products increasingly satisfying visitors. The growth of sustainable tourism needs to be based on a strategy: prioritizing improving the quality of the tourists, rather than simply pursuing the number of tourists.

Sustainable tourism development helps promote local economic development in a number of ways: promoting an increasing the size of the economy, creating diversification of economic activities as well as stabilizing and increasing budget revenue from taxes and other services provided by the competent authorities. From the perspective of state management, increasing budget revenue by moving towards sustainable tourism development is one of the great motivations to encourage local governments to invest in developing infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, telecommunications, energy, etc., in the locality, thereby improving the quality of public services and the living environment of the indigenous people.

(2) Promoting social progress, justice, preservation and promotion of indigenous cultural values

The process of tourism development will encourage, attract, and create jobs for local workers to directly participate in tourism activities, and at the same time create a butterfly effect, promoting the development of other economic sectors and fields, creating many job opportunities, improving income, the material and spiritual lives of all people in the local community. In other words, tourism can bring about an inclusive development effect.

Tourism development creates needs and conditions , while at the same time sets the goal of ensuring the efficient and rational utilization of indigenous cultural values, cultural heritage and that the human resources of each locality are able to maintain sustainability and uniqueness in the long term. With the expansion of the tourism market, in which the structure of international tourists is increasingly diversified, the good image of the locality and the country is also promoted and spread to the world, thereby facilitating the expansion and development of international trade and cooperative relations. Tourism in general and sustainable tourism in particular is, also a bridge for tourists and local people to understand each other. This allows for visitors to have interesting experiences while traveling and discover the unique culture and people in the locality; At the same time, local people also through contact with tourists learn more about the culture in different regions or countries, thereby enriching their customs and practices.

(3) Protecting natural resources, ecological environment, developing renewable resources

This includes both of the following aspects: preserving and protecting natural resources and ecological environment in tourism activities; preserving and protecting natural resources and ecological environment to create the premise and conditions for tourism to develop sustainably. One of the biggest criteria to assess sustainability in tourism development in a specific locality is the conservation and maintenance of ecological resources and minimizing the negative impacts exerted by people on the environment in the process of carrying out tourism activities. Sustainable tourism development must ensure that local tourism resources such as scenic spots, historical sites, cultural values, etc., are not negatively impacted, do not cause the loss of their original value or adversely affect their long-term use.

In order to develop sustainable tourism for the country in general and localities in particular, managers need to make detailed plans to solve specific problems following the principle of balance between current and future benefits, balance between short-term and long-term development to ensure that tourism development is effective and sustainable and to avoid loss and waste of developmental resources. Accordingly, it is necessary to have special solutions to appropriately manage the utilization, to avoid over-exploitation, which causes the loss or complete destruction of the country in general and of the development of local tourism in particular. At the same time, it is necessary to actively invest tourism revenues back into resource protection for the further development of renewable tourism resources and environmental protection.

2. Potential for sustainable tourism development in Vietnam

With many beautiful, rich and diverse natural landscapes all over the country which are attractive to tourists, Vietnam has a lot of potential to further develop its tourism industry. Vietnam has more than 40,000 monuments and landscapes, out of which more than 3,000 are classified as national monuments and 5,000 are ranked at provincial level.

Vietnam is also one of a number of countries in the world recognized by UNESCO for many heritages, including: Thang Long Imperial Citadel, Hoi An ancient town, Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex, Hue Ancient Capital, Ho Citadel, My Son Sanctuary, Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, and Ha Long Bay. This is one of the reasons that Vietnam has such great potential to attract international visitors. Moreover, throughout the territory of Vietnam, there are about 117 museums –which store the rich history of the nation, with heroic imprints that entice visitors to learn further about Vietnam’s history.

Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups, with each region and each ethnic group having its own cultural identity, customs and lifestyle, creating its own unique attraction. Vietnam also has a significant intangible heritage: Hue royal court music, Central Highlands gong cultural space, Ca tru, Quan ho, Xoan singing, Giong festival, Hung King worship, etc., to attract tourists. In particular, the Vietnamese people have a tradition of hospitality, which is one of the most attractive and sympathetic factors for international tourists.

In the past years, the Party and the State have paid close attention to the goal of turning the tourism industry into a spearhead economic sector, identifying sustainable and inclusive tourism development as the orientation and guiding the development of the tourism industry in the new period. To achieve that goal, policies are always aimed at creating an open investment environment, creating favorable conditions and encouraging all economic sectors to participate in investment in tourism, with fair competition and equity before the law.

According to the Master Plan on Tourism Development to 2020, Vision to 2030 and Vietnam Tourism Development Strategy to 2030, Vietnam’s tourism industry has focused on prioritizing the development of the technical infrastructure, especially transportation infrastructure, information, tourism services, places of entertainment, culture, etc., to serve tourism, enhance the attractiveness of tourism resources, and ensure environmental sustainability while developing the human resources for tourism, creating significant “leverage” to help Vietnam become an attractive destination for domestic and international tourists.

In addition, with the intensification of the process of international integration, there is opportunity for development of tourism businesses. In order to meet the increasing requirements of tourists and the fierce competition of businesses in the market, tourism businesses are forced to rise up, assert themselves and perfect themselves through further improving service quality and diversifying tourism products. International economic integration is an opportunity for Vietnam to learn from other countries in the world, from their experience in training human resources for tourism, to better meet the requirements of the domestic market and keep up with the international level of tourism.

However, Vietnam’s tourism industry still faces many challenges.

Firstly, while certain results have been achieved in regard to the investment in building and perfecting the tourism infrastructure system in a more synchronous and modern direction, the domestic road, air, and wharf transportation systems are still considered underdeveloped, lacking safety standards and easily accessibility for tourists to be able to move quickly, safely and conveniently. In fact, transportation costs are still high. The telecommunications system has not been widely developed, with the quality is still limited, and the price of services is much higher than that of other countries in the region. The system of hotels, motels, facilities to serve the needs of rest, dining, entertainment, recreation, etc., has increased in number, but many places still do not guarantee the quality of services.

Secondly, the legal regulations on tourism management are incomplete and there are many shortcomings for tourism investment and business activities. Awareness by businesses and people of sustainable tourism development is still limited. Most of Vietnam’s tourism businesses are small, with limited assurance of service quality, low management capacity, and weak international competitiveness. While the legal system of Vietnam is still incomplete, many business establishments have not built a positive reputation, doing business by snatching and slashing customers; There are many places in which the activities take place spontaneously, in chaos, even annoying clients, guests, with such negative cases affecting the image of Vietnam’s tourism industry. The awareness of preserving the tourism environment has not been raised, which has hindered the sustainable development of this industry. In fact, people living in tourist areas often encroach on tourism resources without fully realizing the impact on the ecological environment and long-term effects for the community. Besides this, the process of opening up and integrating tourism also affects and complicates a number of issues related to social security, order, and the preservation of precious customs and traditions.

Thirdly, the quality of tourism products; The degree of connectivity of tourism products is still very limited. The consequence is that tourism services focus mainly on exploiting tourism resources, causing an overload. In addition, the trained human resources in the tourism industry are small, poor in professional qualifications, foreign language skills, lacking experience and the understanding of sustainable tourism; management and service staff with high professional qualifications in tourism business establishments in the field of hotels, restaurants, resorts, amusement and entertainment facilities are still in short supply, not meeting the strong development needs of the tourism industry.

3. Some key solutions for the sustainable development of Vietnam’s tourism industry in the coming time

Firstly, improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the State’s management tools in environmental protection, protection of natural resources, and ensuring the development of sustainable tourism.

The quality organization of the propagation of laws and policies regarding the development pf sustainable tourism for investors, tourists and people in the tourist area. The State should strictly manage the licensing and operation of tourism business establishments, the organization and participation in tourism activities, cultural and tourist events; strengthen inspection and examination of the use and protection of natural resources and the environment; strictly comply with regulations on the survey and assessment of the environmental impact when investing in tourism projects; to resolutely deal with tourism development projects that violate regulations in these areas. Strengthen coordination between sectors, levels, and entities involved in tourism services, working tourists, and residential communities, in joint efforts to protect the environment for tourism development.

The State should strictly control and take measures to limit the impact of economic activities in other fields (construction, transport, industry, agriculture, et.) on the environment at tourist sites and destinations. Research and determine the pressure limit of tourism activities on natural resources and environment; regularly monitor and check the use of resources, avoid the situation of excessive use causing the risk of depletion, deterioration, or serious degradation. Promptly coordinate between specialized management agencies in charge of tourism and relevant agencies and functional sectors in overcoming incidents, regression, and the degradation of tourism resources.

Completing the system of internal rules, regulations and statutes on environmental protection in tourist areas and attractions. Develop regulations on tourist management, festival rules, codes of conduct..., educate tourists to respect and have cultural sensitivity towards the humanistic tourism resources; at the same time raising awareness and a sense of preserving traditional cultural values, the social environment and traditions of the community when participating in tourism activities. Urging and regularly monitoring establishments to fully comply with regulations and statutes on environmental protection in tourism activities.

Secondly, strengthen the arrangement of resources and attract investment capital for sustainable tourism development.

Conduct an overall survey and assessment of the current state of national tourism products, thereby developing a tourism development plan that closely follows the demands of the market, diversifying products to meet the increasingly diverse and rich needs of tourists.

Focus on investment in the development of transport infrastructure, electricity, water, environment, postal services, telecommunications, infrastructure of industries and fields directly related to tourism development such as banking, finance, credit, healthcare, etc., to enhance the accessibility of tourists’ destinations, and at the same time create linkages between tourism resource chains as well as linkages between tourism and other industries.

In particular, it is necessary to step up investment promotion activities in major infrastructure projects and key national tourism projects. To encourage investment projects in tourism development with specific commitments to protect, enhance and develop tourism resources. Develop regulations on investment incentives in specific tourist zones and spots; creating more favorable conditions in terms of administrative procedures, granting business establishment licenses, business and investment licenses; speed up the clearance of land.

Promotion and investment attraction for the tourism industry must be associated with reviewing, assessing and appraising the capacity of investors, the quality of investment projects, and selecting really capable and purposeful investors and serious investment strategies to ensure the feasibility and effectiveness of projects. Implement investment incentives and support policies and at the same time speed up and regularly inspect the implementation of tourism development projects, especially the compliance with the content of the plans, commitments on investment progress; resolutely revoke the projects delayed beyond the allowed time or projects that violate commitments and regulations to avoid wasting resources, especially land resources and tourism resources.

Raise awareness for tourism businesses in implementing and participating in standards of quality of tourism products. Develop a mechanism to connect the product development between the tourism industry and related industries. Raise awareness and promote the role of the community in developing tourism products, especially diversifying, and utilizing unique local tourism products. Diversify forms of capital mobilization, focusing on attracting capital from small-sized and medium-sized enterprises and residential communities for investment in tourism development.

Thirdly, train and develop quality human resources to meet the requirements of sustainable tourism development.

Establish a database system on national tourism human resources in order to fully assess the quantity and quality of human resources in the tourism industry; survey, evaluate and forecast the tourism industry’s human resource needs, both in the short term as well as in the long term; formulate and organize the implementation of master plans and plans on human resource development in the tourism industry in accordance with the master plan, development requirements and tourism development objectives and orientations.

Improve the quality of human resource recruitment for the management and labor apparatus of the tourism industry on the basis of strict implementation of regulations on personnel quality standards corresponding to each job position and recruitment process. Supplement and perfect mechanisms and policies in recruiting, training, and developing a contingent of experts, officials, and employees in the tourism industry, especially policies on socialization of training and retraining of human resources. Attract quality experts, a skilled labor force from outside the industry into prioritized areas, fields, and jobs where the local workforce is small in quantity and poor in qualification. Create conditions for social organizations and businesses of all economic sectors to coordinate and associate with training institutions to expand short-term, non-concentrated training forms to serve the needs of both learning and working. Support the form of community education, open training courses on knowledge for the tourism industry for people to directly participate in tourism activities. Strengthen the training capacity of human resource training institutions in the tourism industry in respect to: lecturers, facilities and teaching conditions, expanding cooperation and training connectivity with prestigious domestic and international schools, institutions and training organizations.

Regularly organize training and retraining activities for personnel in the tourism industry to meet the development requirements of the industry, focusing on training and developing a force of experts in each specialized field of tourism activities, especially in regards to the development of sustainable tourism; improve the quality of the contingent of cadres and civil servants in the state management of tourism at all levels; close combination of theoretical and practical training; especially emphasize educational content on protection of natural resources and the environment in the tourism industry at all levels

Support training and guidance for households, small and medium enterprises engaged in tourism; skills training to restore and develop traditional crafts to create tourist attractions and produce souvenirs for tourism. Actively mobilize capital sources for human resource development in the tourism industry, including: The State budget; non-budget resources, especially socialized capital from tourism businesses; aid funds from foreign organizations and individuals to develop tourism human resource training.

Fourthly, develop the market, promote, and advertise sustainable tourism.

Immediately deploy the development of strategies, programs, long-term and annual plans for tourism promotion and advertisement, especially eco-friendly tourism, cruise tourism, spiritual tourism, heritage tourism, etc.; promote joint activities in order to improve the overall efficiency in promotion and advertisement.

Strengthen the coordination between the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, mass media agencies at central and local levels, foreign information agencies, associations, friendship associations and diplomatic missions of Vietnam abroad to promote the image of Vietnam’s tourism industry.

Promote cooperation programs with international organizations to expand tourism promotion activities. Invest adequate funds for tourism promotion and advertisement; expand the socialization of tourism promotion, motivate and encourage businesses to be more active and proactive in the promotion of their businesses, and contribute to promoting the image of national tourism while training, guiding, propagating and educating about responsibility and honesty in promotional activities; strictly inspect the promotional content, strictly handle violations in tourism promotion activities to ensure the reputation of the Vietnam’s tourism brand.


Received: January 4, 2023; Revised: January 8, 2023; Approved for publication: January 27, 2023.

l Endnotes:

(1) UNEP & UNWTO: Making Tourism More Sustainable - A Guide for Policy Makers, 2005, pp.11-12.

(2) Law on Tourism 2017, https://thuvienphapluat.vn/van-ban/Van-hoa-Xa-hoi/Luat-du-lich-2017-322936.aspx.


1. A. Machado: Tourism and Sustainable Development, Capacity Building for Tourism Development in Vietnam, VNAT and FUDESO, Vietnam, 2003.

2. Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism: Master plan on tourism development in Vietnam to 2020, vision to 2030, 2014.

3. Government of Vietnam: Strategy for tourism development in Vietnam to 2030, 2020.


4. United Nations World Tourism Organization: Tourism Terms, https://www.unwto.org/glossary-tourism-terms, 2008.




Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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