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Vietnam's 'World Heritage Road' gets full backing of National Tourist Body

Travel News Asia 14 November 2002

The World Heritage Road (WHR), a new tourism initiative in Central Vietnam, is now well into its second phase of development following its launch in April this year. Phase I incorporated the three provinces of Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam, and the city of Danang while Phase II will now include the other 11 provinces of Central Vietnam.

At a gathering in the luxury Furama Resort at the end of September 2003, WHR officials, WHR members and WHR partners met to discuss future strategy for this important tourism project. 

Also attending this meeting was Mr. Fumiaki Gendo, Director of International Public Relations for the Historical Road of Japan a similar concept from which the World Heritage Road draws inspiration. Both theme roads were introduced and opportunities to cooperate discussed. The meeting concluded with the decision to organize the first Global Congress of Theme Roads 2003 in Danang in September 2003. There are several hundred theme roads throughout the world and there is a strategic plan for cooperation to cross- promote these destinations.

At the meeting, the VNAT presented the Vietnam governments plans for tourism up to 2010 and its own action plan up to 2005. Madame Vo Thi Thang, Chairman of the VNAT made it clear during the meeting that the WHR has its fullest support as part of its strategy to promote tourism in the countrys central region.

The World Heritage Road has also launched a series of practical tourism initiatives covering areas such as beach safety, on which it is now working closely with the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia to improve standards through the setting up of a lifeguard training centre in Danang.

The WHR is also cooperating with the Vietnam Education Council to train and certify hospitality staff in Vietnam. In June this year, 139 staff of the Furama Resort, Danang were awarded internationally recognized proficiency certificates. In future other tourism related businesses will be included as well as hotels and restaurants. 

Paul Stoll, Secretary General of the World Heritage Road and General Manager of The Furama Resort says: The WHR member businesses are encouraged to go through an education process which will allow them to provide the quality of facilities and services required to be a member of the World Heritage Road.

The strategic location of Danang and the growing importance of Central Vietnam to tourism has encouraged the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) to initiate plans for a USD10 million academy to train personnel for the hospitality and travel industry in Danang, and counter what is becoming a critical shortage of skilled tourism workers.

The WHR will be officially introduced to the international travel industry at the annual International Travel Bourse (ITB) in Berlin in 2003. Following the launch of the VNAT-initiated national tourism campaign Vietnam A Destination for the New Millennium at ITB in 2000, Vietnam has seen strong growth in tourist arrivals, making it one of Asias most important new travel destinations. In the first 8 months of this year, Vietnam welcomed 1.76 million tourists, up 11.2 % year-on-year. Domestic tourists registered 8.1 million for the same period, up 4.7%, according to VNAT figures

Commenting on the response to the World Heritage Road, Paul Stoll said: "I believe The World Heritage Road is contributing successfully to cooperation between the travel trade, improving our tourism product and promoting it effectively, in both domestic and overseas market places.".

The World Heritage Road launched its website in June 2002. This is continuously updated and upgraded as membership grows. In 2003, it will be available in three languages: Vietnamese, Japanese and English.

Highlights of The World Heritage Road

Hue - The ancient imperial city of Hue is one of the most important historical cultural cities of Vietnam. As the geographical and spiritual center of the Nguyen dynasty, Hue and the surrounding area is the site of numerous pagodas and seven imperial tombs, along with the tombs of numerous emperors and royals. In 1993, UNESCO declared Hue as a World Heritage Site.

Bach Ma National Park - Bach Ma, a French-era hill station known for its cool weather is 1200 meters above sea level. The French started building villas here in 1930. When the Vietnam war ended, Bach Ma was soon forgotten and the villas abandoned. In 1991, Bach Ma became a national park and there are plans to develop it for eco-tourism.

Lang Co - This palm shaded peninsula rates as one of the most scenic spots in the country. To one side lies a stunningly clear lagoon and on the other miles of unspoiled beach. The town depends on fishing for its livelihood.

Hai Van Pass - The Hai Van Pass is the highest and longest pass in Vietnam with the north-south national highway zigzagging over it for almost 20km. The literal meaning of Hai Van is Sea and Cloud. Reaching to a height of 496m above sea level, the pass seems to be lost in the clouds almost all of the time.

Ba Na - A former French hill station which enjoyed a brief heyday in the 1930's before gradually being abandoned thereafter. The scene of fierce fighting between American and Vietnamese patriotic soldiers in the 1960's, the resort's eighty or so villas and other buildings were later left abandoned. The completion of a new road up to the site in 1998 and cable cars operating since 2000 has once again opened Ba Na up to visitors.

Danang City - Danang is the main gateway city of Central Vietnam and has an international airport. In 1888, Danang became a concession of France and was called Tourance. The French considered Tourance one of Indochinas five major cities. In December 1996, Danang was separated from Quang Nam to become Danang province. The government of Danang city was inaugurated officially on 1st January, 1997.

Quang Nam This area was the centre of the Cham civilization for many centuries. Ancient cities like Singhapura - the administrative capital of the Champa civilization, the Buddhist inspired Indrapura, My Son valley - the spiritual center of the Champa civilization, and Hoi An - the ancient trading port are located in this region.

Marble Mountains also known as the mountains of the five elements, these were once a group of five offshore islets, but because of silting over the years, they became part of the mainland. Mysterious caves within the mountains shelter altars dedicated to Buddha. At the foot of Marble Mountains is the stone-carving village of talented craftsmen producing fine works of art since centuries. From the Monkey Mountains peninsula to the Marble Mountains there is the world renowned Danang Beach, known around the world as China Beach. This beach provides white powdery sand, recreation facilities and first class diving.

The Peninsula of Son Tra - 12km northeast of the city centre of Danang is the Son Tra Peninsula. It looks like a mushroom with its peak 693m above sea-level. The cap of the mushroom is Son Tra mountain and its stalk is the white sandy beach which affords an ideal area for bathing, playing sports, fishing and swimming.

My Son Valley - Southwest of Danang, was chosen as a religious sanctuary by King Bhadravarnan, and from the 4th century on, many temples and towers were built. My Son was almost destroyed during the Vietnam war and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

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