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New Halong Bay status sparks preservation concerns

The joy at Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay entering the temporary list of the seven new wonders of nature has been tempered by concerns the high profile could see an unmanageable spurt in tourism, damaging the world heritage site.

The announcement that it is on the temporary list is based on first counting of global votes on Friday. It sparked celebrations all over the country. Local tourism firms said it would be a boost for the industry as a whole.

Hundreds of millions of voters around the world have cast their votes for Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province along with the Amazon Rainforest in South America, Iguazu Falls at the border of Brazil and Argentina, Jeju volcanic island off South Korea, Komodo National Park in Indonesia, Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Philippines, and South Africa’s Table Mountain.

A source from the New Open World organization that initiated the popularity poll said the voting calculation will be checked, validated and independently verified before official results are announced three months from now. There could be changes in the list after the verification process, it said.

A total of 440 destinations in 220 countries were nominated for the contest, from which 28 finalists were chosen.

Pham Minh Chinh, head of Quang Ninh Party unit, said the new title will require local authorities to launch campaigns to promote the bay professionally.

Meanwhile, local tour operators like Hanoitourist and Vietnam Travel Company immediately added the winning information to their leaflets and websites.

Viet Tourism Company has initiated a series of Ha Long Bay tours with a cash promotion of VND500,000 (US$24).

Nguyen Van Tran, director of Apex Tourism Company, a Vietnam-Japan joint venture, said his firm will especially benefit from the information because “Japanese tourists love Ha Long Bay.”

Many people across Vietnam contributed to the victory via their cell phone votes.

A national campaign promoting Ha Long Bay over the past four years has been joined by many people of all ages and overseas Vietnamese as well.

Tran Nhat Hoang, an official from Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said a new television program about Ha Long Bay will be launched to provide more information and make more people know about the bay after its global recognition.

Concerns

But the joy has been accompanied by concerns that more people coming to visit the site will make it more difficult to preserve it. Ha Long Bay was already recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site twice in 1994 and 2000.

Ngo Van Hung, director of the center managing the bay, said more visitors will put more pressure on the environment because more tourism facilities will need to be built to serve them.

“If the number of visitors increases dramatically, we will not be able to meet all the demands,” Hung said.

Vietnam Travel Company, Vietnam Travel Agency




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