Distinguished guests, winners and enterprises in the tourism field were warmly welcomed by songs of autumn in Hanoi from talented young singers and dancers.
The Awards were initiated in 1999 by The Guide magazine, the English-language travel and leisure publication of Vietnam Economic Times. In the 17 years since its mission has been to recognise the achievements of and contributions made by enterprises, organisations, individuals, and localities to the country’s tourism development.
‘Tourism plays an increasingly important role in the structure of GDP, creating jobs and boosting the economy and development,’ Mr Nguyen Phu Binh, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Vietnam Economic Times, said during his opening address at the ceremony. ‘In the first seven months of 2016 Vietnam’s tourism industry continued to make its mark. It welcomed 5.57 million international tourist arrivals, up 24% over the same period of 2015, and 38.2 million domestic tourists, up 22.9%.’
These figures reflect the efforts of stakeholders in the tourism value chain, especially organisational units and tourist enterprises. However, Vietnam’s tourism sector is still very much challenged on many fronts, with a key national conference on tourism development on 9 August in Hoi An ancient town in Quang Nam province hearing that ‘international travellers to Vietnam rank only fifth among the ten countries in Southeast Asia’ and ‘seven of every ten visitors say they will not return to Vietnam a second time.’ In addition to the reasons cited by Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue at the conference - thefts, traffic jams and accidents, poor service and dirty toilets - environmental pollution has also become a major concern in recent times.
This year The Guide Awards were held under the theme ‘Joining Hands to Develop Sustainable Tourism and Protect the Environment’ and the message The Guide hopes to send to the distinguished guests and enterprises at the ceremony as well as its readers is: Let’s work together and do everything possible to protect our precious environment before it becomes too late!
‘No matter where you come from or what you believe in, we all care about the environment. It’s our lifeline,’ Mr James Kendall, founder of the non-profit volunteer group ‘Keep Hanoi Clean’, told the ceremony. His words received a hearty round of applause from the audience.
As part of the ‘Keep Hanoi Clean’ project, James and other members of his group identify places in Hanoi that are commonly used for dumping garbage. With help from the government they clean up those places and then plant trees and gardens or build playgrounds for children to enjoy. Since the volunteer group was founded they have relied on sponsors to help them purchase equipment and other materials they need for their projects.
James also believes that educating children and young adults about the environment is key. They are the future of this world and education is extremely important for initiating the change for a better and more sustainable future.
‘It’s now predicted by scientists that by the year 2050 we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish,’ he said. ‘Right now, we are at a pivotal point to make a change in the environmental future of the world. It’s time to decide if you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem!’ Sponsors are called for to help in purchasing clean-up equipment such as shovels and garbage bins.