12 August 2013
A two-year project by the University of the Sunshine Coast will help shape the sustainable development of one of Vietnam’s fast-growing tourism regions.
The People’s Committees of Kien Giang Province and the Biosphere Reserve Management Board have endorsed the technical reports by USC Associate Professor of Heritage Resource Management Dr Bill Carter, whose research included visits to the province in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam.
Dr Carter said his reports on integrated planning for conservation, development and tourism in Kien Giang Province recommended ways to transition fishing and farming livelihoods to include tourism, while protecting natural environments and community lifestyles.
Dr Carter, who is Associate Director of the University’s Sustainability Research Centre, said Kien Giang was a biosphere reserve requiring careful management of its many natural and heritage assets, including habitats, traditions and culture.
His reports identified that the province would suit more localised, compatible, heritage and eco-tourism rather than the construction of contrived tourism products which were available elsewhere and targeted limited markets such as high-end international travellers.
“What gives Kien Giang a competitive edge is its unique interplay of natural environment, history, culture and community lifestyle,” Dr Carter said.
“Developing a tourism destination based on these characteristics can be achieved at reduced cost through community initiatives that have the benefit of also reducing poverty.
“Kien Giang does not need to attract tourists, it merely needs to hold its market longer and increase tourists’ expenditure through appropriate accommodation and improved and expanded products that reflect the nature of the province.
“This would give time for public infrastructure to be built and give ‘breathing space’ for communities to transition to a sustainable tourism future.”
Dr Carter, who is co-editor of the Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, said he was delighted at the translation of his report into Vietnamese and its endorsement by the People’s Committees.
“This makes the reports accessible to the range of stakeholders needed to develop a sustainable tourism sector and hopefully provide guidance to other areas of Vietnam,” he said.
The biosphere reserve management board and provincial government had sought USC’s involvement based on its reputation for sustainability and climate change research.
“It’s very satisfying for USC to be contributing expertise to guide development in another country, and lays the foundation for further research and partnerships between us,” he said.
“It’s certainly boosting our credentials in south-east Asia.”
— Julie Schomberg