UNESCO recognition could be big for Cat Ba

By Phuong Anh, Tam Anh   September 20, 2023 | 08:24 pm PT
UNESCO recognition could be big for Cat Ba
Limestone karst mountains on Lan Ha Bay in Cat Ba Archipelago. Photo by Pham Huy Trung
Tourism insiders hope that the recognition of the Ha Long Bay-Cat Ba Archipelago in northern Vietnam as a UNESCO World Heritage Site could help bring more foreign tourists to the area.

Late last week, the archipelago in the northern province of Quang Ninh Province and neighboring Hai Phong City became the first inter-provincial UNESCO-listed site in Vietnam.

Le Khac Nam, vice chairman of Hai Phong, said the future benefits to the local tourism industry could be large.

"Many international visitors love exploring Ha Long Bay," he said. "Following UNESCO recognition, they would certainly come to Cat Ba after visiting Ha Long,"

But Cat Ba is always overcrowded during national holidays, causing heavy congestion and overload at tourist ferry stations.

In 2022, Cat Ba received 2.3 million arrivals, but the majority were domestic tourists.

Hoang Nhan Chinh, Secretariat Director of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), said the recognition would help Ha Long-Cat Ba to rise in fame as a new highlight on the global tourism map.

However, Chinh argued that authorities should take immediate measures to prevent tourist overcrowding that could damage the environment.

"We need to develop tourism but also preserve the heritage to avoid UNESCO revoking the title," he said.

Pham Ha, chairman of Lux Group, a travel company that specializes in luxury cruise tours on Ha Long Bay and the Cat Ba archipelago, said tourists will now have a more complete experience when the two destinations become a dual heritage.

"There will be many exhibitions and tourism fairs abroad in the coming time. UNESCO's recognition of Ha Long - Cat Ba and visa relaxation policies will be the biggest highlights we will promote to foreign partners," Ha added.

Nguyen Hong Nhat, general director of APC Group, which also operates cruise tours in Ha Long and Cat Ba, hoped authorities would soon remove administrative procedures for tourist boats between Quang Ninh and Hai Phong to help tourism take off.

Since 2012, cruise ships carrying tourists to Cat Ba in Hai Phong have not been allowed to enter Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh, while Quang Ninh authorities have also prohibited boats departing from local docks from traveling directly to Cat Ba.

The Cat Ba Archipelago includes over 360 islands, of which Cat Ba Island itself is the largest. The limestone karst mountains of the island rise from the turquoise waters surrounding it, making the area an ideal destination for cruise tours.

Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province, around two hours east of Hanoi, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site twice in 1994 and 2000.

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