|Tourists ride elephants in Central Highlands Province of Đắk Lắk. Elephant riding will be banned as of 2018. - VNA/VNS Photo|
THỪA THIÊN- HUẾ —Madelon Willemsen, head of the Việt Nam office of the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, said that the wildlife-related tourism activities that have been popular in the country for decades, such as elephant riding, souvenirs made of wild animal parts, the consumption of bear bile and dishes cooked with wild animal meats, need a radical rethinking.
When the 2015 verison of the Việt Nam’s Penal Code takes effect on the first day of 2018, tourism businesses operating programmes that exploit wildlife could be charged with new offenses, she said at a conference for sustainable tourism development held in Huế City on Wednesday.
“The charge will not only result in penalties but also harm the business’s reputation. Certainly, no one could develop sustainably with negative comments from customers,” Willemsen said.
Lê Thị Minh Anh from the Việt Nam Environment Administration added that tourism businesses, such as hotels, would face environmental criminal charges for activities that in the past they considered totally unremarkable.
“The use of invasive species like red-eared sliders or common water hyacinth for ornamental purposes in hotels, for instance, will earn the hotels a fine from VNĐ1billion to VNĐ5billion and a short-term operational halt,” Anh said.
She added that the consumption of wild animals and endangered plants would yield a much higher fine and a permanent halt to operations.
Anh said tourism businesses must set up procedures for managing operational hazards and tourism infrastructure construction as well as build up environmental protection plans for every tourism project.
Environmental protection encouraged
Willemsen and Anh were among many speakers to urge tourist firms to focus on environmental protection for the good of the natural world and for business benefits.
“The environment creates the basis for tourism as many travelers seek out unique features of nature. And environmental disasters have negative impacts on the development of tourism,” said Anh, encouraging businesses in the sector to contribute to environmental protection in general.
Anh noted the disaster created by the Formosa toxic spill in April last year had hurt tourism in the affected provinces of Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên- Huế for months.
Nguyễn Diễn, deputy director of the Việt Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Đà Nẵng said the percentage of visitors who never return to Việt Nam—currently 70 per cent—would increase unless the tourism sector improves. One necessary improvement is to raise awareness about environmental protection.
“The businesses must cut off their wildlife consumption to reduce the exploitation of the nature from others. At the same time, they should be aware of environmental protection for sustainable development in general,” he said.
Nguyễn Văn Phúc, deputy director of Thừa Thiên- Huế Department of Tourism said the department focuses on environmental protection in the sector’s growth plans for the next year. — VNS