Growing the green lotus

Vietnam’s newly-selected trademark is the Green Lotus, which symbolises the country’s desire to develop and promote green tourism, an initiative that has been enthusiastically received by the hospitality industry.

Created by Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) and the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism, the Green Lotus is looking to inspire a widespread, nationwide cleansing. The symbol will be used to certify travel services that employ environmental friendly or “green” practices with the aim of developing a stable and sustainable tourism industry in Vietnam.

While many upstanding operations in the tourism industry are “going green” nowadays, many more guesthouses and hotels around the country completely ignore environmentally-friendly practices. VNAT hope that the Green Lotus programme will help turn that around.

Tourist destinations consume large amounts of natural resources and energy, such as electricity, water and food, while generating huge amounts of rubbish, sewage, exhaust fumes and noise.

According to the research of VNAT’s Hotel Department, which studied more than 50 hotels from the three- to five-star categories, only 5 per cent of hotels make regular records of their daily rubbish and only 25 per cent apply environmental friendly policies.

Only three hotels controlled their levels of waste from steaming kilns, electric generators and chimneys. However, none of them made a record of feedback from guests or staff members on resource management on their properties.

Most of them did not apply any methods to manage toxic chemicals, although two per cent of hotels surveyed collected batteries. Noise management is mainly unchecked without any stable solutions.

Green Awards

Following in the footsteps of initiative such as ASEAN Tourism Forum’s Green Hotel Awards, Europe’s Green Ball and UNESCO’s Green Leaf, it’s better late than never for Vietnam to create its own standards and introduce a green trademark to recognise environmentally-friendly businesses. This is an important step for authorities to promote quality development of the tourism industry within Vietnam.

“We have learned from other countries about the positive effects of a green trademark and green standards that can reduce the bad effects of tourism on natural and environment resources,” says Do Hong Xoan, the chairwoman of Vietnam Hotels Association, who adds that tourists do consider a hotel’s greenness before making a booking.

According to Xoan, the Green Lotus programme will feature 84 detailed criteria divided into four main groups. The Green Lotus standard will be formalised and available by 2012 to help evaluate the environmental standards of hotels around the country.

Hospitality trade

While research exposed the negative side of Vietnam’s tourism industry, many prestigious and high-end properties have already had green policies in place and have welcome the trademark with great enthusiasm.

Nguyen Duc Quynh, executive assistant manager, Furama Resort Danang, also backed the initiative.

“In Vietnam, environmental friendly practices are becoming popular and it seems to be the new trend in recent years,” notes Quynh. “Nowadays, there are more and more hotels and resorts that are aware of the importance of a green environment and consider environmental friendliness to be a factor that is connected closely to their sustainable development.”

According to Cyril Chan, hotel manager of Silver Shores International Resort, security is often the top priority for tourists when choosing a tourism destination, however, many of them are now “strongly interested in green hotels, the convenience of public transportation and hotels, which implement green activities.”

“The implementation of green hotel policies not only helps us reduce waste, which reduces our impact on the environment but we’re also proactive in creating a strong, healthy and more sustainable environment for guests who stay,” he added.

Key actions

Green tourism is, of course, a growing trend all around the world, and globetrotters constantly seek out destinations with natural beauty. In a competitive industry, Vietnam has to promote green tourism and reassure travellers that the beautiful beaches, mountains, forests and islands are being protected.

At present, high-end hotels and resorts are flying the flag for green business practices by recycling water for gardening, campaigning to save electricity, using non-plastic bags or recycled materials, limiting use of bed linen and towels, and utilising solar energy, and so on.

This ensures convenience for customers while cutting down on use of chemicals, water and electricity. But besides water and energy-saving policies, establishments like Furama Resort Danang and Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel recycle paper and cooking oil from kitchens amongst other initiatives.

Notably, Somerset Serviced Residences in Vietnam were the first city cluster in The Ascott Group and Capitaland, outside of Singapore, to implement the ISO 14000 – Environmental Management System (EMS) since 2008.

“With such policies, the management and staff of Somerset Serviced Residence can be assured of working in an environment that undertakes everyday processes and activities which impact the environment positively,” says Nhi Tran, marketing manager, Ascott International Management. The group also established a Green Committee Environmental Management System to spearhead environmental initiatives.

While many hotels and resorts around the country try their utmost to promote “clean and green tourism”, the Green Lotus programme is timely and will positively promote the beautiful and green images of Vietnam. So far large hotels and resorts have shown a commendably conscientious attitude towards the environment but a more widespread eco-friendly attitude is needed.

Positivity is also perhaps not enough. Tourism authorities also need to be able to play “Bad Cop” and issue strict punishments to agencies, individuals and business who damage the environment.

From VirVN

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