World heritage site receives UNESCO warning over tourist overload

By Hoang Khanh    December 13, 2019 | 09:54 am GMT+7
World heritage site receives UNESCO warning over tourist overload
Tourists join boat tours inside the Trang An limestone landscape in Ninh Binh Province, northern Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/Anh Hung.

The number of visitors to the Trang An limestone complex in northern Vietnam far exceeds UNESCO’s recommendation but local authorities deem it “acceptable.”

The tourism department of Ninh Binh Province, home to the complex, said early this week that UNESCO has issued a warning. The complex can allow a maximum of 3.5 million visitors a year, according to UNESCO's heritage management plan, but the number was 7.4 million this year.

Given the National Tourism Year to be celebrated in Ninh Binh with a series of cultural events next year, the number of people visiting the UNESCO heritage site is likely to be even higher.

Trang An limestone landscape is famous for boat cave tours that attract millions of tourists every year. Photo by Shutterstock/Anh Tran.

The Trang An limestone complex is famous for boat tours of caves and attracts millions of visitors every year. Photo by Shutterstock/Anh Tran.

However, local tourism officials dismissed the fears saying visitors mainly sit on boats for cave tours, and there are not many entertainment or eating options, which would affect the heritage site.

They claimed the tourist overload only happens during the Lunar New Year festival, or Tet, the biggest and most important holiday in Vietnam, while some tourist sites of the complex have yet to be overloaded.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Truong Quang Tung has asked Ninh Binh authorities to control tourist numbers, citing holiday crowds a common sight at major tourist hotspots such as Ha Long Bay, Sa Pa, Phu Quoc Island and Nha Trang.

UNESCO recognized Trang An, 95 km south of Hanoi, as a world heritage in 2014 for "a mixed cultural and natural property where archaeological traces of human activity over 30,000 years have been found." It is also home to Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries, temples, pagodas, paddy fields, and small villages.

Ninh Binh received 7.3 million visitors last year, up 4.6 percent from 2017, including 876,930 foreigners. It targets 7.6 million this year.

In a meeting in February prior to the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc showed U.S. President Trump some pictures of the country's natural attractions including Trang An.

U.S. President Donald Trump admires a picture of the Trang An landscape complex that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc shows to him at the Government Office on February 27, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

U.S. President Donald Trump admires a picture of the Trang An landscape complex that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc shows to him at the Government Office on February 27, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Mai Tien Dung, Minister and Chairman of the Government Office, told VnExpress that Trump was so impressed by the picture that he expressed a desire to visit it one day.

 
 
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